Honours police want Blair as a witness

For the Prosecution, no less.

Now Lord Cashpoint, rearrange into a well know phrase or saying:

A, Up, Like, Stitched, Kipper


Detectives are pressing for Tony Blair to be called as a prosecution witness in any trial resulting from the cash-for-honours investigation, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

The surprise disclosure will raise the spectre of Mr Blair becoming the first serving or former prime minister to give evidence to a criminal court.

He has already had the dubious distinction of being the first serving prime minister to be interviewed as a result of a police inquiry into criminal allegations.

The news is likely to alarm Lord Levy, Labour's chief fund raiser, and Ruth Turner, the head of Government relations, the only two Labour Party officials to be arrested.

Until now, speculation that Mr Blair might be called upon to give evidence envisaged his appearance as a defence - not a prosecution - witness to support his party colleagues.

But detectives now hope his evidence will prevent the pair from claiming they were acting "under orders".

Lord Levy, in particular, has made it clear that he will not act as a "fall guy" for his friend and tennis partner Mr Blair, and has told allies that he expects the Prime Minister to back his account of events.

Scotland Yard spent 13 months investigating allegations that Labour offered honours in return for confidential loans totalling £14 million from 12 businessmen to fight the 2005 general election.

The alleged offences relate to a breach of the 1925 Honours Act and to perverting or conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Last month, detectives submitted their final report on the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

The CPS will decide who, if anyone, should face criminal charges. All those who have been questioned deny acting illegally or improperly.

Senior detectives want Mr Blair to tell a jury, under oath, what he told them during his two interviews at 10 Downing Street: that he did not authorise anyone to promise any lender a peerage in return for a secret and substantial loan to the party.

"The prosecution definitely intends to call Tony Blair as a witness if there are charges," said a senior source close to the inquiry.

"They want to rule out any possibility that the defence will deliver a late 'Exocet' [missile], by saying that the accused was simply acting on orders of the Prime Minister."

Since receiving Scotland Yard's report, the CPS has asked police to bolster their case in some crucial areas. This may involve re-interviewing key suspects and -witnesses.

A spokesman for the CPS confirmed: "We have asked the police to undertake some further inquiries."

The decision on who should be called as prosecution witnesses in a trial is made by the CPS, often in consultation with the police. Witnesses are invited to make themselves available for a hearing.

In the rare instance where a witness declines to attend, the CPS can seek a "witness summons" which, if granted by a court, requires the individual to give evidence under oath.

The police have obtained from Miss Turner's lawyer a note written by her which, if accurate, would be damaging to Lord Levy. In it, Miss Turner alleged that Lord Levy asked her to lie for him - a claim the peer vehemently denies.

This newspaper revealed in March that detectives investigating the cash-for-honours scandal wanted to interview Mr Blair under caution but backed off after being warned that it could lead to his -resignation.

A senior government official indicated to Scotland Yard that Mr Blair's position as Prime Minister would become untenable if he were treated as a suspect, rather than simply as a witness. Detectives were hoping to question the Prime Minister under caution during the second of two interviews.

Mr Blair was first seen by detectives in December of last year and then interviewed a second time. A news black-out was placed on the second interview for "operational reasons'' at the request of the police, but this was lifted after six days.

Of the 12 men who lent money to Labour, four were later nominated by Mr Blair for a peerage. Dr Chai Patel, Sir David Garrard, Barry Townsley and Sir Gulam Noon lent a total of £5 million.

Their nominations were later blocked by the House of Lords Appointments Commission. Mr Blair has denied that he promised any of them - or any other lender - a life peerage in return for loans.

Lord Levy, 62, who is known as "Lord Cashpoint" because of his fund-raising skills, and Miss Turner, the "gatekeeper" to Mr Blair, are two of the four people arrested by Scotland Yard during its inquiries.

Sir Christopher Evans, the bio-tech multi-millionaire who secretly lent the party £1 million, was also arrested.

Des Smith, a retired headmaster and the fourth person arrested, has already been told by the CPS that he will not face charges.

Similar threads