Malik probed by watchdog

Shahid Malik, the MP who is once gain in trouble over his expenses claims, faces investigation over the latest allegations that he continued to claim for the cost of a second office after the date that the last member of his staff had moved to a new, larger office.

Mr. Malik denies the accusations, which were first reported by the Daily Telegraph and also covered by Acid Rabbi, describing them as a "complete fabrication."

Although he was cleared of the earlier charges, which related to a second home in his Dewsbury constituency, the inquiry - headed by Commissioner for Standards Sir Phillip Mawer, criticised him for being unable to provide a complete audit trail. Mr. Malik put this down to the fact that many transactions between himself and the owner of the Dewsbury property - Tahir Zaman - were conducted in cash due to Mr. Zaman's strict adherence to Islam. However, Sir Phillip stated that, after examining Mr. Malik's records, he was of the opinion that the payments had in all likelihood been made. Suspicions that the property had been rented at a preferential rate were also quashed, and Mr. Malik - who had resigned from his ministerial position - was reinstated to the Cabinet.

However, despite denying the latest allegations, he once again faces investigation; this time by Commissioner for Standards John Lyon who is said to be considering whether or not to look into the case after a complaint, thought to have been made by campaigners seeking transparency in politics, was made against the MP.

It is up to Mr. Malik to answer the charges, according to No. 10. A spokesman for the Prime Minister has said that "there are no new allegations he has breached the ministerial code." Mr. Malik still insists he has never broken the rules despite having some of the highest expenses claims made by any MP.

Gordon Brown has stated that any breach of the ministerial code will be uncovered by the auditors - independent of the Commons - who are currently checking all MP's records for any sign of dishonest activity and says that Mr. Malik "will have to go through that process and if there is any difficulty or impropriety action will have to be taken."

Even if Mr. Malik is found to be utterly beyond reproach, his career - which, to this observer at least, once looked as though it might last for years and one day even be considered amongst the greatest in recent years - will undoubtedly be tarnished by the last few weeks.

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