Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tim Walker: Iraqi melee at Pall Mall awards ceremony

Copied in full from the Telegraph. Someone email me and explain what the heck this is about.
As a regular host to prominent MPs and a guest of the Hinduja brothers at a Buckingham Palace garden party, Nadhmi Auchi usually relishes being at the centre of the action.

The controversial Iraqi billionaire is, however, keen to disassociate himself from rumours about an extraordinary incident which allegedly took place at the Oxford and Cambridge Club in Pall Mall this week.

Mandrake hears that a media awards ceremony, of which his wife is listed as a patron, turned into a melee after one of the speakers praised the role of Britain and America in Iraq.

“Hamed al-Shareify, a former Iraqi ambassador to Kuwait, was subjected to abuse from certain members of the audience [unconnected to Mr Auchi],” says Adel Darwish, a respected Middle Eastern commentator.

“There was one particularly unpleasant insult about his mother, and, at another point, someone could be clearly heard shouting in Arabic at him: ‘You deserve a bullet.’”

Last night, Mr Auchi, who was given a 15-month suspended jail sentence in France in 2003 for his part in the decade-long Elf oil corruption scandal, instructed his solicitors to let me know that, as far as he was aware, no such incident took place.

"Mr Auchi is a very respectable gentleman and he would not allow himself to become involved in any such incident," says Michelle French, of Carter-Ruck.

William Morris, the secretary-general of the Next Century Foundation, which hosted the awards, says: “This upset has certainly brought Iraq to London. Many people were quite upset and troubled by the incident.”