Monday, 23 February 2015

‘Terrorists’ tried to enter Kenya twice

Interior Cabinet Secretary Major General (Rtd) Joseph Nkaissery. FILE PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 
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Seven suspected terrorists have, on two occasions, attempted to enter the country, pretending they have been invited for socio-religious activities in Eastleigh, Nairobi.
The Indonesians claimed they were invited by a group, Markaz-ur-Rashaad Trust, and that they would be in Kenya for four months.
However, the Indonesian embassy in Kenya raised the red flag and advised authorities to urgently investigate the activities of the group that was to host them.
“The group could not clearly explain what the socio-religious activities will entail,” the mission warned in a letter to the Foreign Affairs Cabinet secretary, and copied to the ministry’s political and diplomatic secretary.
It was not immediately established when the seven first attempted to enter Kenya, but the last attempt was on January 15 when they applied for visas be allowed into the country on January 25.
The embassy warned Kenya that the seven were from “a country with a large number of radicalised fighters in Syria and Iraq”.
The embassy also said it did not understand why the Indonesians, who live in Malaysia, decided to make their visa applications directly to Nairobi instead of going through the Kenyan embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
A senior ministry official who sought anonymity confirmed that the information was received and that the applicants did not enter the country.
But he could not confirm if they were terrorists or not. “The report on the activities of the group that invited them is complete but we cannot divulge the details,” he said.
The letter indicated the applicants were Mr Sultan Basri, passport number A7759789, Mr Said Abdur Rahman (A5399295), Mr Hanafi Baso (A9302859), and Mr Siafruddin Majadi Sila (W394594). The others were Mr Abdipurjaya Abdul Azis (A8301473), Mr Tarrang Ballung Mattingara (A6326984) and Mr Amir Karim (A6538527).
“We are still holding their applications. In the meantime, we request the ministry to liaise with the National Intelligence Service to investigate Markaz-ur-Rashaad Trust and establish purpose of the planned visit,” the letter further read.
Kenya has experienced several security challenges that have prompted authorities to enhance covert operations across the county. At least 10 terrorist attacks are said to have been foiled in the past two months.
On Friday, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery, who spoke during the Ministerial Session of the White House on Countering Violent Extremism, in the USA, said Kenya was experiencing a growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism due to the 700 kilometre border it shares with Somalia, among other factors.
Maj Gen (Rtd) Nkaissery noted that terrorists were using locals to plan and execute attacks.
“In line with this, Al-Shabaab is luring local youths and using their bases in Somalia to recruit, radicalise, train and plan terrorist attacks against Kenya and the region,” he told the global summit.
The meeting came barely a month after the country hosted a meeting to evaluate Kenya’s efforts in implementing the UN Security Council Resolution 1624 on prohibition of incitement to commit terrorist acts and UN Security Council Resolution 2178, which requires states to take concrete steps to address the threat of foreign terrorist fighters.
Mr Nkaissery lamented that the big indigenous Somali population in Kenya had complicated the fight against infiltration by the extremists.
The country has more than 600,000 refugees, a majority of them in refugee camps. Reports show that the refugee camps, education institutions, mosques, prisons and welfare as well assistance centres are now vulnerable to radicalisation.
“We have also seen use of protected spaces to foment violent extremism. Refugee camps are particularly vulnerable to radicalisation,” he added.
Other factors have been identified as the expanded democratic space, growing use of electronic media to recruit and train candidates for extremism, and desire for better lives by the youth.

Greece bailout: Government 'delays reform plan deadline'

Street vendors in Athens, 23 FebruaryGreeks have seen their living standards drop sharply during the debt crisis
Greece will send a list of reforms aimed at securing a bailout extension to EU partners on Tuesday morning, missing a Monday deadline, officials say.
The list must be approved by international creditors to secure a four-month loan extension.
Analysts say the deal's collapse would revive fears Greece will exit the euro.
Minister of state Nikos Pappas says the list will include measures to fight tax evasion and trim the civil service.
Germany's Bild daily newspaper, citing an unnamed source, reports that Greece aims to recover 7.3bn euros (£5.4bn; $8.3bn) with measures to combat tax evasion.
Graphic showing how much Greece owes to whom
A spokesman for the German finance ministry, Martin Jaeger, was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency that Berlin expected the Greek plan to be "coherent and plausible".
Greece agreed at a meeting with its European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF) lenders on Friday to submit the list of reforms before Tuesday.
But officials said later that the Eurogroup had agreed to a delay though no reason was given.
"The list of reforms will be sent to the finance ministers of the Eurogroup on Tuesday morning, while a teleconference will take place in the afternoon," one official told Reuters news agency.
Analysis: Mark Lowen, BBC News, Athens
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis (right) and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble address a news conference following talks at the finance ministry in Berlin, 5 February Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis (right) will have to convince his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schaeuble, pictured here earlier this month in Berlin
The next few hours will determine whether last week's deal on Greece will hold or whether the two sides are still too far apart on the conditions needed for the loan extension.
The Greek government will prioritise clamping down on tax evasion and smuggling in its list of reforms, hoping that will avoid more cuts in the public sector and may free up money to rehire civil servants and increase social spending.
But Germany and others are likely to insist that past austerity measures are irreversible. The European Commission, IMF and European Central Bank will deliver their verdict on Tuesday. If there are deep disagreements, the deal could collapse.
The Greek government will continue to sell this to its voters as the first time it has a real say in the reforms it will take but the reality is that the creditors will keep Athens on a tight leash and there is little room for manoeuvre.
'Long road ahead'
Bild, Germany's biggest-selling newspaper, broke down in an article (in German) what it said was a tax hit list devised by the Greek government.
It will reportedly seek to raise 2.5bn euros from the fortunes of rich Greeks, 2.5bn from back taxes owed by individuals and businesses, and 2.3bn from a crackdown on tobacco and petrol smuggling.
The newspaper was publicly attacked on Friday by Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis who remarked about an earlier story: "One must believe @BILD's tall stories [about Greece] at one's peril."
Mr Jaeger said the Greek reform plan, once received, would be examined by Greece's three creditors - the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the IMF.
Once the three lenders had delivered their opinion, it would be discussed by eurozone finance ministers in a conference call on Tuesday, he said, according to Reuters.
On Friday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble stressed that there would be no payment of new funds to Greece until the conditions of the deal had been met.
Mr Varoufakis has said the bailout agreement will be "dead" if the list of reforms his government is drafting is not approved.
Greek PM Tsipras attends a cabinet meeting at the parliament building in Athens in February.The new Greek government, led by Prime Minister Tsipras, was elected by promising to reverse austerity
The four-month extension deal is widely regarded as a major climb-down for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who won power vowing to reverse budget cuts.
In effect, the deal has kicked down the road some of the more difficult issues, like the future sustainability of Greek debt, the BBC's Chris Morris reports from Brussels.
For now the focus is on steadying the ship, and trying to produce an interim plan, he adds.
On Saturday, Mr Tsipras said in a televised address that his government had "won a battle, not the war".
He called the deal an "important negotiating success" but warned that there was a "long and difficult road ahead".
Greek economy in numbers
Greek couple look at adverts for rental properties
  • Unemployment is at 25%, with youth unemployment almost 50% (corresponding eurozone averages: 11.4% and 23%)
  • Economy has shrunk by 25% since the start of the eurozone crisis
  • Country's debt is 175% of GDP
  • Borrowed €240bn (£188bn) from the EU, the ECB and the IMF

Australia strips Rolf Harris of honours

Rolf HarrisHarris has been jailed for nearly six years for indecent assaults on four girls

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Rolf Harris has been stripped of his Australian honours after his conviction last year for child sex offences.
A brief statement said that the disgraced entertainer's appointments as Officer and Member of the Order of Australia had been terminated by Governor General Peter Cosgrove.
Harris, 84, was jailed in July 2014 for nearly six years for 12 indecent assaults against four girls.
The offences took place between 1968 and 1986.
Australia operates a separate honours system to that of the UK. Harris has also been awarded honours under the UK system.
He has appeared on TV screens as a children's entertainer and songwriter.
He is also an artist and painted a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II to mark her 80th birthday in 2006.
Earlier this month he was again questioned by police regarding sex offence allegations.

Pakistan captures militant linked to Peshawar school assault

Relatives of killed students hold photos depicting the victims during a protest demanding that the culprits of the attack be brought to justice, in Peshawar, Pakistan, 7 February 2015Relatives of those killed are campaigning for the attackers to be brought to justice
The Pakistani military has arrested a man suspected of taking part in December's attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.
The army claim that Taj Muhammad was one of the commanders behind the Taliban assault.
The army is still searching for other militants linked to the attack, in which at least 150 people were killed, including 133 children.
All of the gunmen who stormed the school are believed to be dead.
Taj Muhammed was captured in a camp for internally displaced people in the Pawaka area of Peshawar.
Pakistani authorities believe 27 militants were involved in the attack. Nine gunmen were killed during the siege and several others linked to the attack have been captured.
The detainees could be brought before military courts and face the death penalty if convicted of terrorism.
Following the massacre, security has been stepped up in the region, with teachers now allowed to carry guns.
Pakistani teachers handle various firearms during a weapons training session for school, college and university teachers at a police training centre in Peshawar on January 27, 2015Teachers in the region now guard schools with guns
Destruction left in the wake of the attack on the Peshawar school on 17 December 2014A BBC team photographed the destruction at the school shortly after the attack
The group of attackers cut through a wire fence at Peshawar's Army School on 16 December before launching an attack on an auditorium where children were taking a lesson in first aid.
The gunmen, who were wearing bomb vests, then went from room to room shooting pupils and teachers in a siege that lasted eight hours.
A faction of the Pakistani Taliban loyal to Mullah Fazlullah said they carried out the attack in revenge for the army's offensive against them in North Waziristan.

Chinese feast: Year of the lobster?

A steamed lobster is pulled from a pot.
Dumplings, red packets of money, long noodles symbolizing long life, fireworks at midnight - all of these are traditional Chinese trappings of Asian Lunar New Year celebrations happening around the globe.
This year, however, many Chinese tables will feature a new, unlikely addition to their traditional meals: lobsters from the US state of Maine.
China's hunger for this storied slice of Americana has been growing over the past decade. Stephanie Nadeau, owner of The Lobster Company wholesaler in Kennebunkport, Maine, says in 2009 China bought virtually no lobster from Maine. Now the Chinese New Year is the busiest time of year - even busier than Christmas.
"With Christmas, it's only one day," Nadeau says. By contrast, she says she'll spend four weeks this year filling her Chinese New Year orders.
"It's my busiest year ever," she adds. "The Chinese are very fond of live seafood."
And how much does the New Year's bounty weigh in at? "Probably 400,000 pounds [181,000kg]," Nadeau says.
"In Hong Kong, they use - almost exclusively - small 1lb [0.45kg] lobsters," she says. "Maybe 40 miles away in Guangzhou, which used to be Canton, they prefer a two- or three-pound lobster."
As China's middle class has developed increasingly cosmopolitan tastes, their presence has been felt in unlikely areas of the global economy. The majority of Maine lobster exports still go to Canada, but even with record catches, wholesalers say they hadn't anticipated this much demand from a country so geographically distant - a major concern when shipping live seafood.
Fireworks explode over Hong Kong to celebrate the Lunar New Year.Could lobsters become as big a part of Asian Lunar New Year celebrations as fireworks?
Flying nearly half a million pounds of lobster to China has proven especially challenging this winter.
"There's been [a lot] of difficulty this year because of all the bad weather we've had in Boston and New York," adds Nadeau. "This time of the year, because the water's so cold, we harvest very few lobsters - they pretty much hibernate in the winter. All the lobsters that we're shipping now were caught mostly in December and early January."
In order to accommodate the new demand, Nadeau says her business has built a new facility in Canada that holds about 120,000lb of live lobster.
Like other Maine lobster companies, Nadeau's business is ticking up because Chinese lobster eaters are looking abroad to revive old traditions in new ways. Spiny lobsters used to abound in the South China Sea, but overfishing has destroyed their Chinese habitat and driven up prices. Even though they've logged more air miles, US lobsters are a bargain in China.
"Our Maine lobsters are filling the middle-class void," Nadeau says. "We're working around the clock to get lobsters into China for the holiday."
Maine lobster offer softer meat and a finer flavour than their spiny cousins and allow Chinese consumers to return to old recipes - lobster is often steamed and dipped in wasabi and soy sauce, or eaten with noodles in a garlic sauce.
Maine lobster is often called "Boston Lobster" on Chinese menus. Nadeau, a native Mainer, says she doesn't mind being upstaged by her metropolitan neighbour to the south - as long as the orders keep coming in.
Aside from providing the perfect combination of flavour, value and US cachet, Nadeau says that Maine lobster - possibly the most typically New England food after clam chowder - has one decisive advantage in China.
"They like ours because they look like a dragon," she adds.

Maldives ex-leader dragged into court by police

Mohamed Nasheed being taken to the Criminal Court in Male, 23 Feb 2015Mr Nasheed's shirt was ripped in the scuffle

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Police in the Maldives have dragged ex-President Mohamed Nasheed into court to face charges for ordering the arrest of a top judge while still leader.
Mr Nasheed, now leader of the main opposition party, was arrested on Sunday under anti-terror laws.
He complained of being manhandled by police after he had ignored attempts to prevent him from speaking to reporters outside court.
Mr Nasheed, who was denied bail, was later seen with his arm in a sling.
His Maldivian Democratic Party said it "deplore[d] the blatant denial of due process" by the Maldives prosecutor-general and called for his immediate release.
The court gave him three days to appoint a lawyer.
Maldives police try to move former President Mohamed Nasheed (C) during a scuffle as he arrives at a courthouse in Male 23 February 2015. The police tried to stop him speaking to reporters outside the court building
Maldives police try to move former president Mohamed Nasheed during a scuffle as he arrives at a courthouse in Male on 23 February 2015.But he was dragged into the courtroom after ignoring their calls
His advisers told the BBC that he wants to appeal but he faces bureaucratic obstacles in doing so.
Maldives Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon told the BBC that the case concerned the "kidnapping and abduction of an innocent person" and such an activity was "linked to terrorism in the Maldives legal system".
She said Mr Nasheed was being kept in custody because he had a "history of avoiding and evading the courts".
Mr Nasheed is a former human rights campaigner who was the island nation's first democratically elected leader.
His arrest adds to growing instability in the small coral atoll nation, the BBC's Charles Haviland reports.
President Abdullah Yameen, elected in 2013, has recently become alienated from key former colleagues.
He arrested his defence minister, accusing him of plotting a coup, and has been deserted by another former ally, a powerful resort tycoon who has now joined forces with Mr Nasheed. He has also sacked the chief justice and another judge.

Ivory Coast's ex-first lady Simone Gbagbo in court debut

Ivory Coast"s former first lady Simone Gbagbo waves as she arrives at the Court of Justice in Abidjan, on February 23, 2015Ms Gbagbo is facing charges of undermining state security
Ivory Coast's former first lady, Simone Gbagbo, has denied wrongdoing for her alleged role in the violence that followed the 2010 elections.
Ms Gbagbo was giving evidence for the first time at her trial in Abidjan.
Her husband, former President Laurent Gbagbo, is awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
He refused to accept defeat in the presidential elections, sparking months of violence that claimed more than 3,000 lives.
"I don't know exactly what the concrete actions are that I am being accused of," Mrs Gbagbo said at the hearing, according to the AFP news agency.
Relatives and friends of victims of the 2010-2011 post-electoral crisis in Ivory Coast holds up images of the slain victims during a protest on February 23, 2015 in front of the Palace of Justice in AbidjanFamily and friends of victims of the violence protested outside the court
She also insisted her husband was the legitimate winner of the elections instead of his rival, Alassane Ouattara, who was declared the winner of the poll.
Police had to separate supporters and opponents of the Gbagbos as scuffles broke out outside the court.
The Ivorian judiciary had resisted pressure to send her to the ICC as well, where she is accused of war crimes, saying she and other key suspects should be tried in their homeland.
Mrs Gbagbo and more than 80 supporters of her husband have been charged with undermining state security.
Both sides have been accused of atrocities in the bloody clashes that followed the disputed elections.
The Gbagbos were

Kenya anti-terror laws: Court scraps main clauses

Kenya's opposition lawyer James Orengo speaks in a Nairobi court on 23 December 2014Opposition lawyer James Orengo told the court the law undermined civil liberties

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Kenya's High Court has thrown out key aspects of a tough new anti-terrorism law after a legal challenge by the opposition.
Eight clauses were annulled, including those which curbed media freedom and capped the number of refugees and asylum-seekers to 150,000.
The government said the law was needed to counter the growing threat posed by militant Islamists.
The opposition warned that it violated civil liberties.
Covert operations
The BBC's Maryam Abdalla in the capital, Nairobi, says that the opposition Coalition for Reform and Democracy (Cord) party applauded the ruling, saying it had saved Kenya from becoming a police state.
The government said it would consider lodging an appeal.
Our reporter says the court had ruled in the government's favour on some controversial clauses.
These included giving Kenya's intelligence agencies the power to carry out covert operations to prevent attacks and allowing police to detain terror suspects beyond 24 hours, provided they were first brought to court.
Policemen arrest a man protesting against controversial new security legislation in Nairobi, Kenya - 18 December 2014Opposition activists claimed that that the legislation would turn Kenya into a "police state"
Passengers travelling to Nairobi wait to be searched for weapons in the town of Mandera at the Kenya-Somalia border, 8 December 2014Kenya tightened security following deadly attacks by militants at the end of last year
The law was passed during a chaotic parliamentary session in December, following the killing of 64 people in two attacks in north-western Kenya by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group.
In September 2013, 67 people were killed when al-Shabab militants laid siege to the upmarket Westgate shopping centre in the capital, Nairobi.
On Saturday, al-Shabab posted a documentary-style account of the siege online.
A masked fighter suggested that similar attacks could be carried out on shopping centres in Canada, France, the US and UK.
Al-Shabab is fighting to create an Islamic state in Somalia, but it has been increasingly targeting neighbouring Kenya.
The government alleges that it is recruiting Somalis living in Kenya, and therefore wants to restrict entry to refugees and asylum-seekers.
Kenya has nearly 500,000 refugees, many of whom fled conflict in Somalia.
Kenya sent soldiers into Somalia in 2011 to attack the militants, accusing them of being behind the kidnapping of foreigners on Kenyan soil.
The militants are demanding the withdrawal of Kenyan troops in Somalia.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw have whip withdrawn over 'sting'

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Two former foreign secretaries have been suspended from their parliamentary parties after being secretly filmed apparently offering their services to a private company for cash.
Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Labour's Jack Straw both say they have broken no rules.
Reporters for the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4's Dispatches posed as staff of a fake Chinese firm.
The MPs have referred themselves to Parliament's standards watchdog.
Labour leader Ed Miliband has written to the prime minister calling for a ban on MPs having second jobs.
'Useful access'
It is claimed that Mr Straw was recorded describing how he operated "under the radar" and had used his influence to change EU rules on behalf of a firm which paid him £60,000 a year.
On the subject of payment, Mr Straw is heard saying: "So normally, if I'm doing a speech or something, it's £5,000 a day, that's what I charge."
Sir Malcolm is reported to have claimed he could arrange "useful access" to every British ambassador in the world.
The MP for Kensington and chairman of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee was recorded saying: "I am self-employed - so nobody pays me a salary. I have to earn my income."
He said his usual fee for half a day's work was "somewhere in the region of £5,000 to £8,000".
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The Palace of Westminster
MPs' second jobs
  • MPs are allowed to take on other employment as long as it is declared in accordance with the code of conduct
  • They have to register their financial interests, including paid employment outside Parliament
  • But they are forbidden from acting as a "paid advocate" - taking payment for speaking in the House, asking a parliamentary question, tabling a motion, introducing a bill or tabling or moving an amendment to a motion or bill or urging colleagues or ministers to do so.
  • The government is in the process of setting up a register which would require third-party lobbyists to declare their client lists and meetings with ministers
  • Labour has called for a ban on MPs from being paid as directors and consultants
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Both men defended themselves on appearances on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday morning.
Sir Malcolm said he had "nothing to be embarrassed about". He said the allegations were "unfounded" and he vowed to fight them "with all my strength".
He said he had never accepted an offer from the fake firm, saying it was a "preliminary" discussion "about what they had mind".
Sir Malcolm is paid £67,000 a year and he said telling the company he was not paid a salary was a "silly thing to say".
"Of course I receive a salary as a Member of Parliament but I was referring to my business interests, from none of which I receive a salary. I receive payment for services I provide," he said.
He told the Daily Politics an MP's salary "sounds a lot of money to anyone earning less than that".
But he added: "The reality is that to anyone from a professional or business background earns considerably more than that."
Limiting MPs to their parliamentary salary would be "excluding very large numbers of very able people" who could not "accept such a substantial reduction in their standard of living," he added.

Public sector pay

2012 parliamentary consultation

MP's salary
  • £78,298 Headteacher
  • £72,649 Police superintendent
  • £88,000 Senior civil servant
  • £63,032 NHS director
About 200 MPs have business interests, he said, and everything he earns is detailed in the Register of Members' Interests.
Sir Malcolm said he would not stand down as security committee chairman, unless his committee colleagues wanted him to.
"One's got nothing to do with the other," he said. "None of the matters are remotely to do with intelligence or security."
He said he had a letter from Channel 4, accepting he had not offered access to any privileged or secret information.
Ed Miliband: "In the next election, Labour candidates will be banned from paid directorships or consultancies"
Mr Straw has suspended himself from the Parliamentary Labour Party, and the party said it was aware of the "disturbing allegations" against him.
The Blackburn MP, who had already announced his intention to stand down in May, said he was "mortified" that he had fallen into the reporters' "trap" but that he had said nothing "improper".
He told Today the language he used had been "not necessarily wrong but could be taken out of context".
Transcripts requested
During his 36 years as an MP he had been "absolutely scrupulous" about observing the rules, he said, adding that the entire discussion had been around what he would do after leaving Parliament.
He acknowledged he should have postponed the conversation until after 7 May.
Earlier, Mr Straw said he had taken on one consultancy role since his ministerial career ended in 2010, with commodity suppliers, ED&F Man (Holdings) Ltd, saying it was done in accordance with the MPs' Code of Conduct.
Sir Malcolm and Mr Straw both said they had requested copies of the recording transcripts, but that Channel 4 and the Telegraph had not provided them.
Jack Straw MP: "I have acted with complete probity and integrity throughout my parliamentary career"
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair offered Mr Straw his support, saying he was a "byword for being a hard-working constituency MP and parliamentarian".
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said her party would "end second jobs for MPs".
Mr Miliband said the allegations against Mr Straw were "disturbing" and called for the issue of second jobs to be settled "once and for all".
Prime Minister David Cameron said he did not favour a complete ban on MPs having other employment, saying Parliament was "enriched" in some cases by members' outside experience.
Describing the reports as "very serious matters", he promised an "immediate disciplinary inquiry" into Sir Malcolm's case.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which manages MPs' pay, has recommended a 9% salary rise, but party leaders have said that would be unacceptable.
Phillip Blond, director of the centre-right thinktank ResPublica, said MPs should be banned from having outside jobs - but should also have their pay increased.
"We need to recognise that MPs are at the top of the public service tree, and pay them at the same level as top GPs, top civil servants, top head teachers," he said.
Advisory board
The undercover reporters had created a fictitious communications agency called PMR, which they said was based in Hong Kong.
A statement on Channel 4's website said 12 MPs with "significant outside interests" were invited to apply for jobs with PMR, which had "plenty of money" and wanted to hire "influential British politicians to join its advisory board".
"Not all politicians are for hire," the statement added.
"Half of those approached didn't respond. One said he wanted to check us out in Hong Kong so we took it no further. And another said he just wasn't that interested. Of the others, two stood out - Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw."
The documentary, called Politicians for Hire, will be broadcast on Channel 4 at 20:00 GMT.

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