Saudi story’s cover blown

Sunday Mirror - - SAIRAKHAN -

It hurts to say this but I found my­self agree­ing with Don­ald Trump this week.

He was spot on to de­scribe the lu­di­crous an­tics of the Saudi death squad who butchered Wash­ing­ton Post writer Ja­mal Khashoggi – and the ever-chang­ing story of the Saudi Crown Prince and his cronies – as “the worst cover-up ever”.

It beg­gars be­lief that a man can walk into a con­sulate and be mur­dered, and it has huge im­pli­ca­tions for press free­dom.

I don’t think we will ever get to the bot­tom of what hap­pened to Mr Khashoggi after he en­tered the Saudi Con­sulate in Is­tan­bul.

But it is be­com­ing clear we need to think more care­fully about who we choose as al­lies and trad­ing part­ners.

How can our Gov­ern­ment sit round a ta­ble and do arms deals with the Saudis when they know they are deal­ing with a regime that will mur­der a jour­nal­ist just for crit­i­cis­ing them?

If our politi­cians can’t put mo­rals be­fore prof­its we should re­place them.

Over the years I’ve asked quite a few peo­ple to sign non-dis­clo­sure agree­ments. But it was al­ways for the rea­sons these gag­ging deals were in­vented in the first place – to en­sure that in­for­ma­tion which could be pinched by busi­ness ri­vals was kept con­fi­den­tial.

When I was de­vel­op­ing my skin­care brand, I had to share my prod­uct ideas and images with po­ten­tial cus­tomers and mar­ket­ing ex­ecs be­fore the ac­tual launch, so I got peo­ple to sign NDAs, which is stan­dard pro­ce­dure.

It never en­tered my head that any­one could use an NDA to si­lence vic­tims of sex­ual abuse, racism or ha­rass­ment.

The first time I re­alised it was even a thing was when Har­vey We­in­stein’s for­mer as­sis­tant in Lon­don claimed that in re­turn for a pay­off she’d had to sign an NDA ban­ning her from talk­ing about the be­hav­iour she’d en­dured and wit­nessed while work­ing for him.

Zelda Perkins broke that agree­ment when she gave ev­i­dence to MPs that We­in­stein had “sex­u­ally as­saulted” her and had “at­tempted to rape” her col­league.

That NDA stated that she had to try to limit what she said if she was ever called to give ev­i­dence in any crim­i­nal case against the film boss.

She was even banned from seek­ing med­i­cal help over her or­deal un­less the doc­tor she spoke to also signed an NDA. And, the way the law stands, if We­in­stein chose to sue her – or any other vic­tim who’d agreed to an NDA – he’d have a case.

He could ap­ply to the courts for an in­junc­tion to stop al­le­ga­tions about him be­ing re­ported and seek dam­ages and costs.

For­tu­nately, he’s too busy try­ing to stay out of jail by fight­ing var­i­ous crim­i­nal charges of sex as­sault.

But, as we learned this week, he’s not the only su­per-rich house­hold name to wield the NDA in a bid to pro­tect him­self against al­le­ga­tions of vile and pos­si­bly il­le­gal be­hav­iour.

There was out­rage this week that, after an eight-month Daily Tele­graph in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the Ap­peal Court banned the pa­per from re­veal­ing that ty­coon Sir Philip Green asked for­mer staff to sign NDAs over claims of sex­ual ha­rass­ment, racist abuse and bul­ly­ing.

If it wasn’t for the ad­mirable Labour peer Lord Peter Hain, who used the le­gal pro­tec­tion of Par­lia­ment to name and shame the Top­shop boss, we still wouldn’t know about it.

Green, al­ready a pariah after sell­ing the BHS pen­sion­ers down the river be­fore even­tu­ally stump­ing up £363mil­lion, de­nies all the al­le­ga­tions.

No doubt there will be more in the com­ing weeks. And no doubt he’ll deny those too.

But what­ever the truth of it, one thing is un­de­ni­able – if you are rich and pow­er­ful enough you can hire lawyers to run rings around the vic­tims of your gross be­hav­iour while you hide be­hind a le­gal cloak of anonymity.

Some will say vic­tims should not take the money. That they should refuse to sign the NDAs and fight for jus­tice in the courts. In an ideal world, that’s what would hap­pen.

But in a world where peo­ple are in­tim­i­dated, em­bar­rassed and ter­ri­fied of go­ing up against their boss’s army of ex­pen­sive lawyers, hell­bent on paint­ing them as liars and fan­ta­sists, in the un­cer­tain hope of even­tu­ally win­ning dam­ages, I can see why sign­ing on the dot­ted line and run­ning away is a tempt­ing op­tion.

Which is why it’s time we out­lawed the use of NDAs to avoid le­gal re­spon­si­bil­ity for mis­treat­ing em­ploy­ees. Be­cause one look at the peo­ple who use them tells us every­thing we need to know.

There’s some­thing bril­liantly life-af­firm­ing about Carol Vor­der­man say­ing that she doesn’t need a man in her life be­cause at 57 she’s “bliss­fully sin­gle”.

She reck­ons most re­la­tion­ships have a shelf life and says she’s al­ways happy to move on with­out a back­ward glance.

I ad­mire her con­fi­dence. But when you look like Carol, find­ing the next Mr Right Now is never go­ing to be a prob­lem.

BUL­LIED May’s MPs get nasty

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