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As a non-political website, we are not seeking to gain any political capital but just to point out some of the obvious facts that Mr & Mrs Joe Public never really gets to know - until the shit hits the fan.

The following article outlines the allegations cash for peerage within the Labour party:

 Cash-for-questions affair - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



Tuesday March 14, 02:22 AM

SCANDALS CONTINUE to haunt British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He is now caught up in a cash-for-honours row and is facing a backlash from his own MPs following the revelation that Labour tried to conceal millions of pounds of financial aid from multi-millionaire supporters, some of whom were later nominated for peerage.In an ingenious innovation, the party took "loans" instead of donations, which have to be declared unlike loans that are taken at commercial rates.

It is said Labour bigwigs traded peerages for and #163;10 million in funds. Caught up in the row are three millionaires, including the Indian-origin Dr Chai Patel who is said to have lent the party and #163;1.5 million at commercial rates last August. He was persuaded to advance a loan rather than a gift. He has now denounced the methods for peerages as a "bazaar".

He was among 27 others who were recommended for peerage. But the independent Appointments Commission, which monitors nominations to the House of Lords, blocked his recommendation and those of two others. Labour, meanwhile, maintains that it broke no rules by accepting loans and strenuously denies the backers were being rewarded for the loans. Critics, however, say the "loans" were taken to avoid the charge that money was taken by selling peerage.

ferrisconspiracy viewpoint: Allegedly all Labour members are to declare donations to the Party Treasurer.  Since we have been running news items on Jack McConnell and Colin Boyd QC, who has links with the Labour party but was not at the function in question, and no doubt countless others, who were at the Red Rose Ball days before Justin McAlroy was assasinated.

Has Jack McConnell declared the financial support that was given to the Labour party by a consortium of millionaire businessmen, which included the father of Justin McAlroy?  So how much money did the Red Rose Ball raise and who were the donations from, or were these just 'loans'... Sir Jack?

P.S. Surely this has got nothing to do with the fact that an innocent man is still serving a life sentence for the murder of Justin McAlroy?

Willie Gage is clearly an innocent man and hope politics or conflicts of interest within the police denied him the right to the freedom that one day, he will definately get.  And that's a fact.
 http://www.freewilliegage.com
 

Welcome to the truth. Much of the information that you are about to receive has already been reported in Scottish newspapers. The remainder is a collection of information obtained by us from numerous sources including the miscarriages of justice organisation: a private investigator, lawyers, journalists, independent witnesses and Willie Gage himself. The terrible situation surrounding the miscarriage of justice that Willie has suffered is very complex and has been going on for four years therefore we shall only provide you with a very condensed version. Please read on in order to see for yourselves why Scotland has the highest number of people per head in jail and yet also still has the highest murder rate and almost the highest crime rate out of every country in Western Europe. The following might give you a rough idea...

On the 3rd of March 2002 a 28 year old man called Justin Macalroy co-hosted a charity fund raising dinner for the Labour Party. Macalroy was in the company of a friend Frank Roy who is the Labour MP for Wishaw. Also present was Jack Maconnell the First Minister for Scotland and John Reid the (then) Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Also present were various Special Branch bodyguards, senior police officers and a surveillance team from the Scottish Drugs Enforcement Agency who had Justin Macalroy under surveillance for the previous FOUR YEARS.

The SDEA had recently tailed Macalroy while he traveled to Estonia where he met some men who were then arrested while trying to smuggle a Multi-million pound consignment of Heroin back into Scotland from Estonia. Macalroy had been openly boasting about various meetings between himself and senior figures within the Russian Mafia. He claimed that he had previously traveled out to meet them and had also entertained them in a Glasgow hotel. The police "forgot" to arrest Mcalroy, and instead arrested two other men.

Four days after the charity dinner Justin Macalroy stepped out of his Mercedes jeep outside his house and was shot dead. The SDEA were asked why they had not witnessed or filmed the incident and they claimed that after FOUR YEARS of surveillance and despite Justin Macalroy's apparently serious criminal activities and associates, the SDEA had (48 hours before the assassination) suddenly decided that Macalroy was no longer of interest and that they had REMOVED THE SURVEILLANCE.

Jack Maconnell and Frank Roy were further embarrassed by the revelation that Justin Macalroy had slipped more than ten thousand pounds into the Labour party coffers during that charity dinner and in a poor attempt to hide the loot his mother's name was written beside three separate large amounts of cash with her surname spelled differently each time! It was bad enough for Frank Roy and Jack Maconnell that their friend Justin Macalroy had been a suspected gangster and heroin importer with links to the Russian Mafia but now they had over ten thousand pounds that they had not declared to anyone. In an amazing twist the secretary who worked in the Wishaw office (that is shared by Jack Maconnell and Frank Roy) was subsequently jailed for handling that money!

Frank Roy and Jack Maconnell were never punished. While it is clear that major heroin barons do amass millions of pounds, that money comes from ten-pound deals. Every tenner comes from someone finding their house burgled or some poor pensioner being kicked to death for her meager pension money. Is that the sort of money that the voters would expect their elected representatives to earn?

On the 2nd of May 2002, a full two months after Justin Macalroy had been murdered (it has been alleged by the solicitor Bob Kerr) that the MP for Wishaw Frank Roy was contacted by a certain person who was connected to Justin Macalroy.

Bob Kerr has claimed that one of the police officers who were involved in the murder enquiry told him that the MP for Wishaw Frank Roy had contacted a senior officer who was involved in the murder enquiry and somehow put pressure on the officer to make a bogus arrest in order that Justin Macalroy's case could be closed.

The very next morning an innocent man called William Gage was arrested and charged with the murder.

Justin Macalroy was buried in his grave and Willie Gage was buried in the Scottish criminal justice system. At that time (May 2002) the law in Scotland stated that an accused person who has been remanded in custody must be placed on trial within 110 days. Many cases have collapsed and the accused have been set free due to clerical errors resulting in the remand time lapsing past the 110 day rule.

Willie Gage was held in the hellhole Barlinnie prison for SIX HUNDRED AND NINETY THREE DAYS before his trial. So much for the presumption of innocence and the 110 day rule!

Every witness including Justin's widow said that the gunman was about five-ten, Willie Gage is six-two. Every witness including Justin's widow said that the gunman's coat was big and padded, the jacket used by the prosecution was a wafer thin waterproof. One witness said that the gunman had short dark hair about one inch spike all around, Willie Gage has long straight hair. The SDEA admitted that they had had Justin Macalroy under intense surveillance for the past four years and admitted that they knew that Willie Gage was not only not connected in any way with Justin Macalroy and had never met Macalroy but they also ran numerous and intensive checks and they found that Willie Gage was not involved with any drug dealers.

The police were trying to link Gage to the murder by a car yet there are FORTY THREE police CCTV cameras in between the scene of the murder and where the car was found and the police admitted that they had painstakingly gone over the footage from those 43 cameras and could not find the car anywhere therefore it was impossible for that car to have traveled from the scene of the murder to the scene where it was found. The police also illegally refused to give the defense any access to the footage from the CCTV cameras.

Inside the ghost car was the waterproof jacket. Justin Macalroy's widow had given similar statements as every other witness regarding the killer's coat being big and padded and therefore nothing like the wafer thin jacket found in the car. The police took her to an id parade and tried to line up Willie Gage beside six wee boys, five were aged 17 and one was 18 a full THIRTEEN YEARS younger than Willie who's age (31 at the time) they had already leaked to the media. The solicitor Bob Kerr called a halt to the proceedings by refusing to allow Willie to take part in the bogus id parade.

Justin Macalroy's widow was six months pregnant at the time and with no id parade the police decided to walk her along a corridor where she expected to soon be confronted by the alleged brutal killer of her husband. The police shoved her into a small room and she was immediately confronted by a fully clothed mannequin that had been dressed up in the water-proof clothes from the car and had it's face masked with only it's STRIKINGLY CLEAR BLUE EYES on view and a black bag crushed up in it's hand to represent a gun. She recoiled in horror and thereafter changed her statement to say that the wafer thin clothes on the mannequin were the gunman's clothes and not the padded clothes that she (and every other witness) had described before.

When Willie was due to go on trial a full TWENTY TWO MONTHS after that dodgey gathering of 'evidence' the solicitor for the Macalroy family Joe Shields, was openly saying that 'she [the widow] will pick Gage out in the dock no matter what he looks like'.

And she duly did just that, not only did she change her evidence about the big padded coat and now identify the wafer-thin jacket that had been dressed on the mannequin but she (for the first time in six different statements) now also mentioned STRIKING EYES and managed to identify Willie Gage (no matter what he looked like) by saying the he had those very same eyes!

Eleven months before the trial Willie received a message from a good friend who has a relative who is a Mason. A senior strathclyde police officer had made a drunken boast to other Masons about a plan to sneak agents into a jury in the coming trial of William Gage.

Willie immediately wrote to the Lord Advocate for Scotland Colin Boyd QC and also to every MSP in Scotland. He told them all about the plot to nobble the jury. Not one of them did anything to stop the corrupt police.

The plan clearly went ahead and the fake jury completely ignored the directions from the trial judge. They also ignored the evidence and returned with a disgusting guilty verdict and the judge duly sentenced Willie to LIFE IMPRISONMENT with a minimum term of TWENTY YEARS! And all for a crime that he clearly did not commit.

Willie immediately lodged an appeal and many supporters embarked upon a freedom campaign. During the past 2 years, six thousand posters have been put up in Glasgow and thousands of leaflets have been handed out to the public. There has also been a protest rally outside Glasgow High Court. Willie has received positive press in the Clydebank Post, The Big Issue, The Sunday Times, Scotland on Sunday, The News of the World and the selfless journalist Annie Brown (famed for exposing rogue care homes) has reported on Willie's plight on the full front page of the Daily Record. Willie's friend Paul McCluskey made a film about Willie's freedom campaign. Sam Poling of the BBC then made a Frontline Scotland program about the miscarriage of justice that Willie has suffered. Willie has sent hundreds of protest letters to police, lawyers, politicions, Jack Mcconnell, Tony Blair and the Queen.

Much of the contents of Willie's letters are both hard hitting and heartbreaking yet no one in authority has as yet done so much as lift a finger to help him. None of them seem to be even remotely interested in the terrible state of the criminal justice system or in the apparent corruption Frank Roy MP, Jack Maconnell first minister and Colin Boyd QC the lord advocate.

The only people who benefit from having an unjust or corrupt legal system are criminals who also happen to be members of the establishment. As long as we have a distinct lack of transparency and a complete lack of accountability then our police officers and our Procurator Fiscals and our Advocate Deputes and our Lord Advocate will all succumb to human nature and cut corners, hide evidence, and manufacture false evidence simply to gain convictions at any cost.

Scotland desperately needs an independent police complaints commission and thereafter we need transparency and accountability. We also must replace the Lord Advocate eith a committee of at least five independent people who have no ties to politicians or Judges. Only then will we ever be able to strive for justice. After all justice is supposed to be a fundamental part of a true democracy.

Update: after the outrageous SIX HUNDRED AND NINETY THREE DAYS on remand and the totally disgusting guilty verdict. Willie's solicitor advocate Jim Keegan (from Keegan Smith Solicitors in Livingston) made a complete mess of the appeal. Is Jim Keegan corrupt and working for the Crown while pretending to work for the defence? Or is he simply a completely incompetent lawyer? Willie stood up in front of Lord Easie, Lady Paton and the Lord Justice General Lord Hamilton. Willie accused Jim Keegan of "working for the other side". The Lords agreed to allow Willie a chance to find a proper lawyer and submit his points of appeal. Jim Keegan made a mess of the trial and the appeal, his pathetic performance has cost Willie further years of torture in jail.

Most recently Willie has taken the fight direct to Jack Mcconnell with a scathing letter that we have reprinted.

THE BATTLE CONTINUES

LATEST NEWS: 17 March 2006
  To see BBC Frontline Scotland film about Willie Gage click here

To see the latest independent film click here


 


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If that is the case is WILLIE GAGE a POLITICAL PRISONER then?

 

The double standards of these people never cease to amaze me as wealth can get you into positions of power or office that have bought their way there or have others do it for them can to a certain degree buy respectability for a mans own character itself defines their own respect and no amount of money could buy you that.


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Hi REAL1... thanks for your post in response to 'Can money buy you respect'.  My personal opinion is that Willie Gage is indeed, in many ways, a political prisoner, and I base my opinion on the facts that were highlighted in my initial post.  I fully concur with you that no amount of money can buy you respect - although it can buy you power, friends in high places, and also, silence

 

Meanwhile, innocent men and women -  in this case, Willie Gage, are left to rot in a prison cell for the sole purpose of protecting the identity of the REAL CRIMINALS that were involved in the case, and subsequently secured his conviction, knowing full well that he was an innocent man. 

 

When the truth eventually does come out, and for the sake of the wrongfully imprisoned, I sincerely hope it's sooner rather than later, I hope that those in power who are responsible, rot in hell also.


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This case has all the hallmarks of THE DARK FORCES at work.

 

Shame upon LABOUR..... and shame on Jumping Jack FLASH over in Australia if he can jump three feet in the air after Scotland won a GOLD MEDAL in the 200m freestyle he will most likely to be a candidate for gymnastics when he returns home to read this!

 

Shame upon Scotland's judicial system!

 

 


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ferrisconspiracy: UPDATE

 

19 March 2006
TONY'S DARKEST KNIGHTS
TONY BLAIR is again fighting a tide of sleaze threatening to swamp his Government, amid claims that Labour swapped knighthoods for cash. Millions were stashed in party accounts - but was the money a loan, a gift or a bribe? Here's our guide to the secret cash scandal.

What's it all about then?

About £13.95million so far. That's the sum donated to Labour before the last General Election by wealthy backers. Blair admits he knew about it, blue-chip fundraiser Lord Levy almost certainly knew about it, but party treasurer Jack Dromey and other officials hadn't a clue.

Was Jack mad?

Spitting nails, basically. He boiled over on Wednesday, telling everyone how he'd been kept in the dark about the secret donations and urging the Electoral Commission to investigate the way political parties borrow money. Oh, and he's married to Tony's constitutional affairs minister Harriet Harman.

So that' s that then?

Unfortunately for Tony, no. The bigger question is whether the secret millions handed over to Labour were a loan, a gift, or a bribe. Labour insists the cash was borrowed in a perfectly business-like manner and will be paid back "on commercial terms". That bit is important because, under new rules introduced by Labour, parties have to declare donations over £5000 unless - and here it comes - it is borrowed on commercial terms. Many party members and MPs fear the whole thing stinks of fish.

Why don't they believe Tony?

Because they fear big businessmen are buying knighthoods or at the very least political influence in Downing Street. Every person who has given more than £1million to Labour is said to have received a peerage or knighthood. Critics' suspicions have not been calmed by Dr Chai Patel, founder of the Priory rehab clinics, who went ballistic after being rejected for a Lords seat. He was one of three rich friends of Labour put up for peerages before a watchdog raised concerns about the nominations.

Where's the money now?

Party chairman Ian McCartney says every penny was spent fighting the last election, and why the big fuss? He insists that Labour fought the 2005 election "in the face of a very heavily funded Conservative campaign".

Ah.. the Tories, they'll be having a field day?

Er, probably not. They were at the old "commercial terms" trick when building their election war-chest, too. Their nominations for honours may also have startling similarities to their donors list. The Lib Dems have also faced sticky moments over who is filling the party purse.

Will Tony survive?

As usual, the spinners at No 10 have fingered Gordon Brown for stirring it but the PM is starting to look tired and accidentprone. He has pledged to review the party funding system, which has helped, and says he'll give up the right to personally nominate people for honours and give it to the Cabinet Secretary.

Why aren't parties funded by the state anyway?

Former civil servant Hayden Phillips has been asked to investigate, although Tony has always been against the idea, believing taxpayers won't like paying for political campaigns. His official spokesman says he now wants to reach a "consensus" on the issue but if it carries on like this for much longer, Tony might not be around to argue the toss.

 

ferrisconspiracy: VIEW 

 

So the bold Jack will not be alone in this gymnastics event then? or could it now be the 200m SPRINT?


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19 March 2006
SCANDAL OF TONE LOAN
Elaine C. Smith

I BET Tony Blair wishes he was in Oz given yet another stooshie over money. That Labour's treasurer wasn't told about a huge loan shows the control freaks operate on a different level from those they are supposed to work with. That the donor gets an honour is disgraceful.

So much for "purer than pure" and transparency.


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ferrisconspiracy: UPDATE

 

22 March 2006
POLICE SET TO PROBE PEERS ROW

TONY BLAIR faces a police inquiry into the cash-for-honours row after an official complaint from the SNP.

MP Angus MacNeil went to Scotland Yard over accusations that supporters were offered peerages in return for loans.

The Specialist Crime Directorate will now investigate whether Labour broke the 1925 Honours Act.

The move comes after the Prime Minister said he would change the law so loans like the £14million amassed by Labour must be declared.

MacNeil said: "Tony Blair must now release all relevant papers and information.

"We need a guarantee of full co-operation by Downing Street."

Four of the 12 backers who lent the £14million were proposed for peerages but have been turned down.

Those who have spoken out say they were not handing over the cash in return for honours.

 

ferrisconspiracy: VIEW

 

TONY BLAIR may well indeed be accepting MONEY FOR RESPECT but what good does it do when it causes such a SCANDAL?

 

The other main point is that if a sum of money  is declared YOU CAN BET THAT THERE IS FAR MORE THAN THE £14m  THAT WAS NOT!


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Blair aide arrested over peerages row

  • Civil servant allegedly offered honours to sponsors of flagship schools
  • Des Smith first person arrested for honours abuses for 60 years
  • Arrest damages government further after recent cash for peerages row

Key quote "Corruption has no place in politics in any advanced western democracy. Whether it's loans, or peerages being offered, the prize should never be a seat in the legislative body. I hope this investigation goes the whole way in cleaning up parliament" - Angus MacNeil, SNP MP and complainant on original 'cash for peerages' scandal

A FORMER government adviser to Tony Blair was arrested yesterday by police investigating the "cash-for-honours" scandal.

 

Des Smith, until January an adviser to the body that finds wealthy sponsors for the government's city academies, had suggested to an undercover newspaper reporter that backers of the flagship Labour schools policy could expect to be rewarded with honours.

Six of the biggest academy backers have been honoured by Labour since the controversial programme to establish 200 academies was launched in 2001.

It is the first arrest in the Scotland Yard investigation into the scandal, following complaints from several MPs that peerages were being "sold" by political parties.

Arrested yesterday morning at his east London home, Mr Smith is also the first person to be detained in over 60 years under the 1925 Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act. He was held at a London police station and was last night released on bail pending further inquiries.

The arrest propelled the scandal to the top of the political agenda once again, placing the Prime Minister and his city academies project at the centre of damaging sleaze allegations.

Police could interview Mr Blair as part of their corruption investigation, as well as Lord Levy, the Prime Minister's chief fundraiser who remains president of the academies' trust, and Mat Carter, a former general secretary of the Labour Party.

Mr Smith, whose role at the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust was to recruit education sponsors, resigned from the trust in January after he told an undercover reporter posing as a potential donor's PR assistant that someone who gave around £10 million to five city academies would be a "certainty" for a peerage.

It is claimed he told the reporter that "the Prime Minister's office would recommend someone like [the donor] for an OBE, a CBE or a knighthood".

The allegations were denied by Sir Cyril Taylor, the chairman of the trust.

Academies are funded directly from Whitehall and donors are given an input into their running in return for gifts, usually of about £2 million.

Mr Smith was remorseful after the newspaper exposé, saying he had "been shattered by the experience" and admitting he was naive. He said at the time: "I shouldn't have said what I did. I'm desperately sorry."

Downing Street has dismissed as "nonsense" any suggestion that honours were awarded for giving to academies. Mr Blair's allies distanced themselves from the row.

Last night, Downing Street refused to comment on the arrest, insisting it was "a matter for the Metropolitan Police". The Conservative Party also offered no comment.

Mr Smith remained in his post as headteacher of All Saints Catholic School and Technology Secondary College in east London.

A former Roman Catholic comprehensive, it became a specialist technology college in 1994 and has been praised for making great improvements.

Angus MacNeil, the SNP MP who was one of the original complainants, said: "Corruption has no place in politics in any advanced western democracy.

"Whether it's loans, or peerages being offered, the prize should never be a seat in the legislative body. I hope this investigation goes the whole way in cleaning up parliament."

The investigation came after the House of Lords Appointments Commission blocked the appointment of four of Mr Blair's nominations - who had made loans to Labour of £4.5 million - for peerages.

Sir David Garrard, a Labour lender who was offered a peerage but asked for his name to be removed from the list of nominees, last night spoke for the first time since it was withdrawn.

The property millionaire, who has sponsored the Business Academy in Bexley, south London, told Channel 4 News: "I have not been offered anything - let alone a peerage - for the academy. I withdrew my nomination from the list because I was outraged by the allegations."

The Met's investigation is being led by the Deputy Assistant Commissioner, John Yates.

Mr Yates has indicated he was prepared to widen the investigation to consider more general allegations of corruption.

The much-delayed list of the new working peers was finally published by Downing Street on Monday, without the names of the four Labour lenders or another who loaned the Tories £2 million.

Taking millions of pounds in loans to fund their election campaigns enabled both main parties to keep the cash off published lists of donations - a practice they have pledged to stop.

It has led to calls for a complete shake-up of party funding and Mr Blair met David Cameron, the Conservatives' leader, last week to discuss the issue.

A number of other inquiries - by MPs and by the Electoral Commission, the democracy watchdog - have been put on hold while the police investigate.

At the time of the original exposé of Mr Smith, John Reid, the Defence Secretary, insisted Mr Smith did not speak for the government.

"All I can say about this story is it seems to be based on one guy. I don't know who he is, and he certainly doesn't speak for the government," he told ITV's Jonathan Dimbleby programme.

"Usually you find that people who are in that position have made other contributions to society, and if you look at the honours list, you will see that the range of people who received honours range far and wide beyond those who make contributions, monetary contributions [to political parties]."

Jack Dromey, the Labour Party treasurer who has said he was "kept in the dark" about loans from wealthy individuals, told BBC radio he could not comment on the arrest.

He added: "All I could say is two things: first, it is right that politics is cleaned up.

"That is what is now happening and I welcome that.

"And second, the police are investigating what happened in the past - it's for the police to conduct that investigation."

What he's alleged to have said

THESE are excerpts of the alleged exchange between Des Smith, right, and a reporter posing as a frontman for a businessman, "Malcolm":

Reporter: I was talking to Malcolm's wife and she was saying that she thinks getting involved in academies - that lots of people seem to get some kind of honour or recognition for ...

Des Smith: Yes.

Reporter: For doing that? And she said, oh, do you think that might be a likely thing that might happen? Is that like a typical kind of thing?

Smith: Yes.

Reporter: Why's that?

Smith: If Malcolm, because basically ... the PM's office would recommend someone like Malcolm for an OBE, a CBE or a knighthood.

Reporter: Really? Just for getting involved with academies?

Smith: Yeah, so if he did one or two [academies], we would certainly start nominating Malcolm.

Reporter: And who does the nominating?

Smith: Well ...

Reporter: Does Cyril's office [Sir Cyril Taylor, head of the trust overseeing academies] do it?

Smith: I would say to Cyril's office that we've now got to start writing to the Prime Minister's office.

[Yesterday Sir Cyril denied any wrongdoing]

Smith: Yeah ... we'd get three or four people to nominate.

Reporter: Oh that's brilliant. I think she'd be quite excited at the prospect ...

Smith: Oh yeah, yeah, what happens is it's a nomination and then the PM would write to somebody and say we're thinking of nominating you, but we'll choose the honour.

Reporter: Yes.

Smith: It will either be an OBE, a CBE or a knighthood.

Reporter: ... I didn't realise it was as straightforward as that. Sponsoring five academies was ... it's £10 million.

Smith: Well, if you put in £10 million in total into education it's "services to education".

Reporter: So it seemed to be a typical thing. Almost the moment you, perhaps, have it approved, the moment you promise the money, you ...

Smith: You start getting considered.

Reporter: Yes.

Smith: But what would be great is, you could go to the Lords ... become a lord.

Reporter: Really?

Smith: Oh yeah. That's what I'd be most interested in.

Reporter: Really?

Smith: Oh yes. Not a knighthood.

Reporter: How does it work?

Smith: You get nominated to be a member of the House of Lords.

Reporter: What, if you get involved in city academies?

Smith: Oh yes ...

Reporter: Oh my goodness, that's amazing ... So, if you invested in five city academies over, say, a 10-year period, it would be ...

Smith: A certainty!

 

Last updated: 14-Apr-06 01:14 BST

 


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The Times April 14, 2006

Westminster faces police gang-busting strategy


SENIOR police officers admitted that they are adopting tough tactics for a very difficult investigation.

Des Smith is the first victim of US-style gang-busting strategies designed to put pressure on those linked with the big political parties to explain who within Parliament is promising to hand over peerages and knighthoods. One Scotland Yard officer said: “They are trying to go for the weaker links first, in the hope of exposing the chain of people behind the promise of honours. It is a tactic that has been used in US corruption investigations, and might well work here.”

Mr Smith could have been asked to attend a police station voluntarily. Instead, he was arrested at his home and taken away in front of the neighbours. Someone who is under arrest cannot simply walk out of a station if they take exception to the questions they are being asked.

Up on Ludgate Hill, a few hundred yards from the Old Bailey, lawyers from the specialist crime division at the Crown Prosecution Service headquarters are monitoring the investigation.

Although the Metropolitan Police investigation was launched over the allegations that wealthy businessmen were providing loans for Labour in return for peerages, the Crown Prosecution Service and police believe that the allegations that emerged against Mr Smith in The Sunday Times over sponsorship for city academies should also be included. One senior officer said yesterday: “It is the same issue of honours.”

Mr Smith had been deputed by Sir Cyril Taylor, the head of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, to negotiate with potential donors to city acadmies. His arrest is the first overt move by the team that so far has been quietly collecting material and documents, including papers from one of the Cabinet Office departments. It may be some time, however, before detectives reach any of the powerful political beasts in the Westminster jungle. None of the 12 big lenders to the Labour Party has been questioned or arrrested.

They are at the centre of what promises to be one of the trickiest inquiries the Met has conducted, led by a fraud investigator and a small inner circle of six or seven detectives. John Yates, a deputy assistant commissioner at the Yard, is the public face of the “loans for honours” investigation but Graham McNulty, a 35-year-old detective superintendent, is the man in day-to-day charge.

He will be the man who has to knock on the doors of Whitehall, Westminster and Downing Street for answers. It will be a far cry from running undercover operations against burglars in South London.

As a graduate who joined the police from university he cut his teeth in Wandsworth, a tough inner-city area, rising to detective inspector. Three years ago he moved to economic crime in the fraud unit within the Yard’s specialist crime directorate.

Mr McNulty reports back to Mr Yates, 47, himself a veteran of some of the Yard’s most difficult and perilous cases after a career that included a string of successful murder investigations in North London. He led the police team behind the disastrous 2002 prosecution of Paul Burrell, the former butler to Diana, Princess of Wales, for alleged theft.

Mr Yates dealt with the families of Britons who died in the Asian tsunami. It required international liaison, organisation and diplomacy, helping the Thai authorities with identification. Last summer he was nominated to fly out to apologise to the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian killed in the Stockwell shooting.

He is still handling the reports coming from the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is investigating the shooting.


It will be interesting to see how this matter concludes but Des Smith certainly looks to be the first 'Fall Guy' in this scandal.

 

 

                                      

 
 

 

 

 

    

 

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Hi Magpie, I take it that ALL the financial 'GIFTS' will be given back as a token of honesty and that ALL those who donated the 'GIFTS' will now be listed?

 

I feel an Old English phrase would be more appropriate: 'Your nicked me' Old son!'

 

 

 


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The Times April 15, 2006

Honours case detectives seize Cabinet Office files


DETECTIVES have entered the Cabinet Office in Whitehall to remove documents relating to the award of peerages as part of a criminal investigation into allegations of honours for sale.

Plain-clothes officers from the Specialist Crime Directorate talked to officials at the Ceremonial Secretariat within the Cabinet Office a few yards from Downing Street. The unit co-ordinates policy and recommendations for honours and processes nominations.

Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary and the most senior civil servant in Whitehall, has been kept informed of the police investigation, the first of its kind for almost 80 years under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses Act) 1925.

The Times has also learnt that Scotland Yard has demanded copies of correspondence from the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT), which recruits sponsors for the city academies. Its former adviser, Des Smith, was arrested on Thursday.

The police have asked to see letters relating to individuals and businesses that have become involved in sponsorship of the schools.

Lord Adonis, the Education Minister who is an architect of the scheme for specialist schools which are partly funded by the private sector, may also be questioned in the widening inquiry.

The Department for Education confirmed yesterday that Lord Adonis, who was Tony Blair’s education adviser at Downing Street before he became a minister last year, had been involved in talks with a number of the sponsors. Six of the biggest were honoured after pledging money.

Sir Cyril Taylor, the chairman of the SSAT, said that the organisation was collaborating with the police inquiry. “He [Lord Adonis] meets sponsors when there is strong potential interest. If you are putting in a lot of energy and a couple of million pounds, you want some attention.

“It is people who are very much convinced that they want to be a sponsor. But he has always got officials present and the idea that Andrew [Adonis] has been saying something is completely ridiculous.”

Sir Cyril, who is an adviser to Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, is preparing to give the police a personal statement next week.

“We are helping them [the police] with the information that they want and we are happy to collaborate.

“They have been asking to see copies of correspondence with sponsors. We are supplying or have supplied everything they have asked for.”

There was no sign yesterday of Mr Smith, the head teacher of a school in Dagenham, East London, who was arrested on Thursday, and released on bail.

Mr Smith had been employed by the Department for Education to work with the academies but resigned in January. He had been taped by an undercover reporter from The Sunday Times apparently promised honours ranging from an OBE to a knighthood and peerage.

The arrest has immersed Mr Blair even deeper in the police inquiry into the allegation of peerages for sale. Lord Levy, his personal fundraiser, was made president of the SSAT, which said that he had played a “key role in raising sponsorship” for academies.

Sir Cyril said that he had a “purely honorary” role, but added: “Lord Levy did find a lot of the original sponsors for the academies. He’s a very good fund-raiser.”

The police investigation began after complaints from Angus MacNeil, a Scottish Nationalist MP, about the possibility of peerages being sold in contravention of the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act.

 

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ferrisconspiracy : ARCHIVE

Lord Cashpoint, the Curry King and Tony's £14m 'dodgy loan'; Investigation: Cash for peerages Labour was in debt, and taking loans from wealthy supporters looked like a good deal. But did that money help 'buy' peerages for the party's tycoon backers?

The Asian businessman was flattered - and more than a little intrigued - when the invitation to dine with Michael Levy dropped through the letterbox.

Arriving at the impresario's north London mansion, he found he was in the company of six other wealthy figures - all, like himself, sympathetic to New Labour. Then, just as the dinner was served on Levy's marble-legged glass table, a surprise extra guest swept into the room, saying: "Hi, I'm Tony."

"Everybody is so immensely flattered they forget they are being crudely manipulated," recalls another Labour donor subjected to the Levy "sting".

A mood of bitter disillusionment is felt by other former guests of "Lord Cashpoint", as Levy is nicknamed, as the row over Labour's secret loans threatens to engulf the party.

 

Sir Gulam Noon is the latest secret lender to discover this weekend the price of the party's secrecy as he joins others blockedby the House of Lords Appointments Commission.

Sir Gulam, a 70-year-old Indian food magnate, joins Barry Townsley, Sir David Garrard and Chai Patel on a list of would-be Labour peers caught up in the funding scandal. The story of how Sir Gulam was drawn into the cash-for-peer-ages row began a year ago, as Mr Blair prepared to fight to win a third Labour term.

The Tories may have been depressed in the polls, but their finances - thanks to big donors such as Michael Ashcroft - were surprisingly healthy. Even the Liberal Democrats had amassed unprecedented funds, due to the support of the millionaire businessman Michael Brown.

Labour, on the other hand, had "never really recovered from the 2001 election", insiders claim, when an expensive blitz of ads was ordered in the final week of the campaign. What was more, the party found that its cramped Old Queen Street headquarters, in a historic building near the House of Commons, were "entirely inappropriate" as a campaign base. A more modern campaign base, a few doors up from the Tories in Victoria Street, had to be found and paid for.

At the time, Labour had crippling debts of up to pounds 23m It owed up to pounds 15.8m to creditors, including overdrafts, and another pounds 4.3m was owed in longer-term bank loans. Its property portfolio, its most valuable asset was worth just over pounds 9m, hardly enough to cover the debt. In effect, the party was in negative equity.

With the financial pinch on, Matt Carter, the party's 31-year-old general secretary, Tony Blair and Ian McCartney, Labour's chairman held a meeting with the PM's chief fundraiser, Lord Levy, about new ways to raise cash fast. They talked about breaking Labour's last fundraising taboo: seeking commercial loans from backers who had previously provided donations.

The idea of a loans facility was agreed between the three men, although the names of those who might be approached to provide the money was not discussed.

It will surprise some to learn that Lord Levy had for some time resisted the option. "If someone gives you a loan, you have got to find someone who is a donor and not a lender if it is called in. You have got to persuade them into a gift. You have more of a headache with loans," said one senior Labour source.

But with the pressure on, Mr Blair gave the green light to his fundraiser Lord Levy to collect the loans. Using his business contacts, including prominent figures in the Jewish community, he raised almost pounds 14m - including a pounds 1.5m loan from Chai Patel, who ran the Priory Group of clinics.

The loans were short term, set at 2 per cent above the base rate. Most would not be called in for a year, and The Independent on Sunday understands that none have yet been repaid. Lord Sainsbury, Labour's most generous benefactor and Tony Blair's science minister, is believed to be among those who provided a generous loan to the party, on top of donations worth pounds 16m. Another prominent Labour donor, Sir Gulam Noon, made a pounds 250,000 loan to help the party. Sir Gulam, a well-known fixture on the New Labour circuit, arrived from Bombay in 1971 with pounds 50 in his pocket before earning his fortune through ready-meals (and is credited with popularising chicken tikka masala).

A prominent philanthropist, he sits on the board of six charities, including an inter-faith group. A Muslim, he was a vocal supporter of his community in the wake of the 7 July bombings.

Yet even this genial Anglophile and apparently blameless man is now enmeshed in the cash-for-peerages row after he agreed to a request for a loan.

In Bahrain yesterday and unavailable for comment, Sir Gulam's office made clear that he would abide by the commission's ruling. Privately, however, he is likely to be deeply wounded by the affair.

"The first loan was in 2005. They were short-term loans at 2 per cent above the bank rate," said a Labour source. "At the end of the, the party needed money."

Collecting loans did have advantages. Not only did they not have to be declared publicly, under Electoral Commission rules, but technically Labour supporters from abroad, banned from giving cash under the strict donation rules, could give loans.

But as the money poured into the Labour Party accounts, only few in the Labour Party were in the know. Even Matt Carter did not see the fine print about who was providing the cash.

"As the general secretary he was formally responsible for the finances," said one friend. "But he hadn't discussed loans with any of these people. He probably knew where the loans came from, but he wouldn't have dealt with the people. He was a party apparatchik. This was very much a Downing Street operation."

Like all loans, there came a time for a repayment and, although it is denied, the impression of reward was difficult to resist as the Lords Appointments Commission belatedly found out about the secret loans while assessing Mr Blair's nominations.

The Independent on Sunday's revelation that the donors had given loans as well as gifts detonated most explosively at the breakfast table shared by Harriet Harman and Jack Dromey at their home in the smart south London suburb of Dulwich.

They are one of New Labour's leading power couples, she a minister in the Department for Constitutional Affairs with responsibility both for party funding and Lords reform' he a union boss and Labour Party treasurer. The loans scandal had every chance of developing into another great spousal controversy.

Mr Dromey, who knew nothing about the loans, was determined that he and his wife were not to be dragged through the same sort of media maelstrom that had sunk the Mills-Jowells marriage. The next morning, the couple took immediate steps to fireproof themselves, Ms Harman casting off her ministerial responsibilities for party funding, Mr Dromey demanding a full inquiry.

In Downing Street, the alarm bells started to ring. It is a small irony of last week's revelations that Mr Blair faced them largely alone. His wife Cherie had a lucrative speaking engagement in Florida on Tuesday.

Preoccupied with his looming battle over the Education Bill, Mr Blair left it to John Prescott to manage the loans fallout. In fact, the Deputy PM shared many of Mr Dromey's concerns. If Labour's rules had been followed, then the fact that the party was raising secret loans should have been shared with a handful of senior officials - and indeed ministers. Neither Mr Prescott nor Ian McCartney were fully aware of what had happened.

It was agreed that the matter should be investigated and a report presented to Labour's ruling body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), on Tuesday.

To Mr Prescott's considerable fury, Mr Dromey then broke an agreement that the matter should be kept quiet until then. The union boss issued a dramatic statement and toured the TV studios to reveal his fury at being kept in the dark, even as Labour whips were assessing the damage of the education rebellion on Wednesday morning.

The mood among Labour MPs on Thursday was ugly. In the Commons tea room, Stephen Byers, a Blair ultra-loyalist, was vocal in his condemnation of Gordon Brown, blamed for "putting Jack up to it".

Others speculated that Mr Dromey's decision to go public was the de facto launch of his wife's bid to be Mr Brown's deputy. In Downing Street, there was a sense of bewilderment at what appeared a full-frontal assault. "It was as if Jack was going out of his way to hurt us," one former aide complained.

Mr Blair, meanwhile, looked worn and defensive as he sought to calm the baying media corps at his monthly press conference. What had been intended as an event to move attention away from the education rebellion became, instead, an extended cross-examination on the loans scandal. He was forced to admit that he had indeed known that the men proposed for peerages had secretly loaned his party money.

This weekend, Mr Blair is desperately trying to stitch together a peace deal that will see Mr Dromey brought back into the fold. He will personally apologise to the NEC and pledge a new system of financial accountability.

Tuesday's meeting, likely to be in the Commons' Portcullis House, promises to be a stormy affair. Mr Blair may well be able to patch together an uneasy peace, but the damage is deep and lasting. A significant number in his party now think that his pre-election visit to "Lord Cashpoint" has left him morally bankrupt.  

A surprise extra guest then swept into the room: 'Hi, I'm Tony'

How 'IoS' led the way

'The Independent on Sunday' was the first national newspaper to expose Labour's cash-for peerages scandal on 23 October. Since then, four of Mr Blair's nominees have been rejected by a watchdog after disclosures that they made secret loans to the party.

EYE OF THE STORM

Sir Gulam Noon

Sir Gulam Noon arrived in Britain from Mumbai in 1971 with pounds 50. Now worth an estimated pounds 50m, the businessman who has been revealed to have lent pounds 250,000 to Labour, has been dragged into the row over cash for honours. His nomination by Tony Blair has been blocked by the House of Lords Appointments Commission. His first company made sweets, but he made his millions with ready-made curries He speaks Hindi, English, Urdu and Gujarati and is prominent among the UK's Muslim community. He was knighted in 2002.

Michael Levy

The charismatic former pop impresario behind the careers of Alvin Stardust and Chris Rea left school at 16 and trained as an accountant but made fortune owning Magnet records. As Tony Blair's chief fundraiser, Lord Lev is a central figure in the "cash for honours" scandal. He plays tennis with the Prime Minister at his lavish home in Totteridge, where hospitality helped to persuade donors to part with some of the pounds 14m in loans that helped Labour fight its election campaign. He uses considerable charm and influence, particularly in the London Jewish community, to schmooze businessmen


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UPDATE

 

Tony Blair: 'uproar' is an accurate description...

DRY YOUR EYES MATE....

 

Police probe into 'government contracts for donations'

SCOTLAND Yard is to investigate claims that multi-million-pound government contracts were handed out in exchange for donations to the Labour Party.

In a dramatic widening of the 'loans-for-peerages' inquiry, Metropolitan Police commanders have extended the scope of the inquiry that has shaken Tony Blair's government. They want to establish whether anyone who donated money to Labour was "rewarded" with lucrative government business.

The opening of a new front in the investigation has triggered a massive expansion in the police manpower being dedicated to the affair.

Sources at the Met have told Scotland on Sunday that almost 300 police are assigned to the case, either full or part-time. They have been tasked with trawling through records of the thousands of contracts issued to private companies by government departments every year.

 

It has also emerged that plain-clothes detectives have entered the Cabinet Office in Whitehall to remove documents relating to the award of peerages.

Officers from the Specialist Crime Directorate talked to officials at the Ceremonial Secretariat within the Cabinet Office a few yards from Downing Street. The unit co-ordinates policy and recommendations for honours and processes nominations.

The remarkable developments have underlined the Met's determination to conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations, originally sparked by a complaint from Scottish National Party MP, Angus MacNeil.

Police sources last night warned that Tony Blair himself "should expect to be visited" - particularly as a number of his aides have made it clear that the Prime Minister was central to the Labour operation to squeeze secret loans from businessmen who he later nominated for peerages.

The police operation 'went nuclear' on Thursday, when former government adviser Des Smith was arrested under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925.

Smith, an adviser to the body pushing forward Blair's flagship city academy scheme, sparked concerns over the honours system when he told an undercover reporter that financial supporters could expect to be rewarded with a peerage or a knighthood.

Sources close to the investigation last night claimed that Smith could be offered immunity from prosecution if he gave prosecutors full details of any wrongdoing. Opposition parties claimed the move could cause further turbulence, as the Attorney-General, a Labour Cabinet minister, would make the ultimate decision on whether immunity could be granted.

However, it is the extension of the investigation into contracts which represents the most dramatic development in the operation, with potentially explosive consequences for the Blair government.

The police will also need to move beyond the 1925 Act and investigate under alternative corruption legislation.

The Prime Minister has consistently faced complaints that his "cronies" were well-rewarded for supporting his party or his most favoured projects, often with peerages or other honours. But a

widespread investigation into allegations of favouritism in the allocation of multi-million-pound contracts would open Labour chiefs to further unwelcome scrutiny over how they fund their party.

A number of businesses run by Labour donors have won government contracts in recent years.

Three years ago, Scotland on Sunday revealed that Paul Drayson's company Powderject won a government vaccines contract after he had donated £50,000 to Labour. He subsequently won a huge smallpox vaccine contract and was eventually made a Labour peer following further donations, although there is no suggestion of any corruption in his activities.

Weber Shandwick, a firm with strong links to Labour, gave the party £17,000 and was later awarded a £3m contract to persuade business to back the government's city academy programme. Again, there is no suggestion of any impropriety.

"The cash-for-contracts element of this is at an early stage," a senior source close to the investigation told Scotland on Sunday. "But the Met feel confident that they will bring cases to answer."

The number of officers employed in the peerages investigation now ranks alongside other major police inquiries. At the height of the Soham murder investigation, there were 478 officers involved.

The affair has led to growing fears in Blairite circles that it could deter wealthy philanthropists from sponsoring the controversial city academy scheme. Under the programme, private sector interests are donating millions of pounds to help fund state schools in England.

One of those donors, Sir Peter Vardy, spoke yesterday about fears that the cash-for-peerages affair could deter such donors from getting involved.

"If the initiative is sunk and put below water because of this cash for honours it will be an enormous shame to the generations of young people who need a much better education than they are getting at the moment," he said.

Sir Peter, whose Emmanuel Schools in the north of England have attracted controversy over claims they teach 'creationism', conceded that some backers may have got involved in the programme in order to get an honour.

"I think it is very disappointing. If that is the case then they have missed the mark of what these academies were all set up for. I think it brings the whole honours into disrepute," he said. "They shouldn't be building the schools if all they are doing it for is to have an honour."

Amid the escalating furore, the SNP MP who sparked the investigation joined forces with the former sleaze-busting MP Martin Bell to demand a moratorium on future honours until confidence in the system has been restored.

Angus MacNeil called on Blair to freeze all appointments to the House of Lords until the matter has been fully investigated.

He said: "Instead of hiding in the Downing Street bunker, the Prime Minister has to acknowledge the full seriousness of the position he is now in. There is a total collapse of confidence in the integrity of his government and a widespread belief that honours are bartered around like second hand cars.

"Tony Blair is now the Arthur Daley of Westminster politics."

Bell warned that the 'corruption' surrounding Blair's government was worse than that afflicting the previous Conservative administration.

"I doubt if even now the Prime Minister and indeed the Conservative Party recognise the extent to which they have brought politics into disrepute and it is high time that they did."

The discovery of an arcane Act has transformed the cash-for-peerages embarrassment into a full-blown crisis which threatens Tony Blair

THEY are less than a mile apart. Downing Street and New Scotland Yard are separated by a tight network of picturesque London streets and centuries of political convention. A mischievous political complaint over "cash-for-peerages" allegations by an unknown Scottish National Party MP was hardly going to disrupt the happy and productive arrangement between these two pillars of the establishment.

This was Westminster logic at the beginning of last week. By yesterday, however, everything had changed. The Met had made a dramatic arrest. And at Westminster, a government which had attempted to laugh off the affair a few weeks earlier, was no longer wearing a smile. Panic has set in.

"There must be some obscure SNP researcher somewhere just clapping himself on the back all the time," a Labour backbencher observed last night of the Nationalists' original approach to the Met, which prompted the investigation under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925. "I can only compliment him, whoever he is. It seemed a neat way of embarrassing the government, but nothing more than that. But I was only worried that it might embarrass us - not throw us into uproar."

Tony Blair's aides furiously deny it, but 'uproar' is an accurate description of the mood in Number 10 during this last tumultuous week.

It had been going as planned. The Prime Minister, eager to regain the initiative after a difficult few weeks, had greeted health trust chief executives in Downing Street for a summit on the financial crisis in the NHS. But all plans had been immediately overshadowed on Thursday afternoon as the news came through that former government adviser and headteacher Des Smith had become the first person to be arrested as part of police inquiries.

The hapless Smith, an adviser to the body pushing forward Blair's pet 'city academy' scheme, had boasted of his access to Downing Street, claiming financial supporters of the academies could expect to be rewarded with honours. For the police, his arrest was a sensible starting point.

It was his exposure, following a particularly self-aggrandising outburst to an undercover reporter, that sparked the original concerns over the integrity of the system.

A measure of Number 10's concern last week came with the immediate response: denial. "Where are the allegations about the politicians in all of this?" one source close to Blair protested. "This man [Smith] appears to have been talking entirely for himself. The type of honours he was bandying about are generally not even in the gift of politicians. You should not assume that this will involve the Prime Minister."

It is New Labour crisis management par excellence: first, deny any suggestion of a problem for the party; and, at all costs, keep the Prime Minister out of it. But the problem for the government, and the issue that has propelled a frustrated Downing Street into a tailspin during the past few days, is that neither of these basic demands can be satisfied.

The government is facing the first criminal investigation into allegations of peerages for sale for almost 80 years. Scotland on Sunday reveals today that the police investigation that began with a staff allocation of less than 20 officers has now been extended into one encompassing almost 300.

Its breadth is expanding by the day. Plain-clothes detectives have marched into the Cabinet Office, which adjoins Downing Street itself, to remove documents relating to the award of peerages as part of their investigation.

Downing Street sources last night conceded that Lord Adonis, the former Number 10 aide, turned education minister and an architect of the specialist schools scheme, is facing a grilling from the officers conducting the inquiry. Meanwhile, Scotland on Sunday has learned that police are widening their investigation to examine allegations of so-called 'cash-for-contracts', with the government accused of handing lucrative public sector deals to party donors.

Earlier fears that the high-profile nature of the inquiry could deter future financial contributions from would-be supporters - of Blair's party or his favoured projects - suddenly appear secondary. The spectacle of detectives trampling through the workings of Blair's government threaten its very reputation.

Worse, the Prime Minister cannot be isolated from the furore. "The bottom line with problems like this is that you want to make sure the boss is detached from everything that is being splattered about," a Labour Party insider explained. "The problem with this investigation is that everything leads to Blair in one way or another. I know that Downing Street is deeply worried this week and the main reason for that is that they can't just deflect criticism away from him, like they usually do."

For a regime renowned for its over-arching desire to control its surroundings and the actions of people within its sphere, this state of powerlessness appears to have come as a shocking blow.

When news of an arrest first exploded on Thursday, the initial assumption was that it must be a Labour MP or peer; confirmation that it was Smith may have come as some relief at first, but it has brought its own problems. Despite his happily trumpeted links to the core of New Labour, Smith was not an employee, an adviser or, it appears, even a Labour party member: he is thus beyond all official government influence. The dilemma represented by his arrest was summed up by another party figure yesterday: "It's a relief that it is someone not associated with the Labour Party, but the worry is that as a result we have no idea what he is saying in there."

The police, it appears, would have it no other way. The swoop on Smith was in the first place a signal that they had not quietly dropped an investigation which many believed they had no stomach for. More importantly, it also demonstrated that they were prepared to pursue their inquiries with a vigour few had anticipated.

If the decision to arrest Smith was not dramatic enough, the manner in which he was hauled in for questioning was the stuff of television cop shows. A 60-year-old headteacher wanted for questioning over what is at base a 'white-collar crime' would not usually expect to be led from his home to a waiting police car in full view of his neighbours. He might also expect weightier figures, people with greater influence than he ever claimed to have, to hear the policeman's knock before him.

That Smith was arrested, rather than invited to attend a police station for questioning, and that he was the first person caught up in the intricate web of allegations to be hauled in, was entirely in line with the strategy finalised by senior Met officers in the days before they moved last week. "Mr Smith was the natural starting point because of his comments to a Sunday newspaper. He was, essentially, where this started," one said. "It is also sensible to identify sources that you think might be most productive to your inquiries at the earliest stage."

For "most productive", read "less experienced", "less polished" or "weakest". There is no suggestion that Smith has done anything wrong - he has not been charged with any offence - but the police strategy appears to be based on exploiting his knowledge to lead them to possible wrong-doing further up the food chain.

The aggressive strategy is based upon the "gang-busting" approach used successfully by American police to divide and then convict the members of influential criminal gangs. Control of the expanding inquiry has been handed over to a deputy assistant commissioner, John Yates, supported by detective superintendent Graham McNulty. Under them, it is now adopting a zero-tolerance approach.

And their officers are coming for those higher up the food-chain.

When one of Blair's closest confidants told Scotland on Sunday last month that the Prime Minister "knew exactly what was going on" when the Labour Party accepted loans from wealthy supporters - some of whom he eventually nominated for peerages - he underlined Blair's personal connection to the allegations that sparked the cash-for-peerages affair. His principal fund-raiser, Lord Levy, has since maintained he was effectively following demands from above when he helped collect £14m in 'secret' loan payments. Both men, along with ex-party general secretary Matt Carter and chairman Ian McCartney, are likely to become acquainted with Met detectives before the book is closed on this investigation.

"Mr Blair should expect to be visited," one police source ventured last night. "I don't think that will come as a great surprise to him."

Det Supt McNulty, the man charged with conducting the operation on the ground, in Westminster, Whitehall and Downing Street, will not have far to go.

HOW THE SCANDAL UNFOLDED

JANUARY 15 2006: It emerges that Des Smith, a senior adviser to Tony Blair's flagship city academy programme, has told an undercover reporter that wealthy donors could obtain honours such as knighthoods and peerages by giving money to the scheme.

MARCH 12: Dr Chai Patel, right, reveals that he had made a £1.5m loan to the Labour Party just weeks before being nominated for a peerage.

MARCH 15: Property millionaire David Garrard confirms that he too had loaned an unspecified amount to Labour before the 2005 General Election. Five months later, he was offered a peerage.

MARCH 16: Labour's treasurer Jack Dromey announces a party inquiry into the affair and adds that he had not been informed about the loans.

MARCH 17: Nationalist MP Angus MacNeil reveals that he has written to the police urging them to investigate whether an arcane 1925 law forbidding the offering of money for political honours has been broken.

MARCH 21: Scotland Yard announces that it has launched an investigation. Labour publishes its full list of lenders who gave the party almost £14m.

MARCH 29: Electoral Commission demands that parties surrender details of the loans they received.

MARCH 30: Scotland Yard announces that the scope of its inquiry has been widened to include all the main parties.

MARCH 31: The Tories reveal the names of 13 supporters who lent them £16m.

APRIL 6: It emerges that detectives are probing whether the parties broke election law in addition to laws on money for honours.

APRIL 13: Des Smith is arrested and questioned.

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Prize can't guarantee happiness: Sudden wealth

is good for most , but not all.

Apr. 9--For some people, winning the big jackpot can turn out to be a big mistake.

William "Bud" Post III called it the "lottery of death."

The Pennsylvania man, who died in January at 66, hit a $16.2 million lottery jackpot in 1988. After that, his sixth wife left him, a woman sued for a third of the winnings, he failed at business ventures with siblings, and spent time in jail for firing a gun over a bill collector's head.

His brother was arrested for hiring a hit man to kill him in the hope of getting a share of the winnings. Eventually Mr. Post declared bankruptcy.

Stories like this are the exception, but the truth remains that good fortune doesn't automatically come with a pile of money.

"Life is good, but it's not a constant party," said Susan Bradley, a certified financial planner who founded the Sudden Money Institute in Florida, which provides resources and training for new wealth recipients and their advisers.

"It's hard," she said. "You can change your phone number. You can move out of state. You can do all those kinds of things. But maybe you don't want to.

"Lottery winners are targets," she continued. "They also don't get the same kind of respect that someone who 'earned' the money gets. There's kind of this funny taint."

The Ohio Lottery does little specific counseling for winners, aside from stressing the importance of finding a good attorney and financial planner because it can't be seen as endorsing anyone in particular, said spokesman Mardele Cohen.

And while the lottery would prefer that winners go public - it's good publicity - more are choosing to avoid some of the drawbacks of instant wealth by remaining anonymous.

"Most of the folks anymore that win large prizes - $1 million or more - are claiming in blind trusts so they don't have people they knew 30 years ago showing up," Ms. Cohen said.

Basically, that involves putting a third party - an attorney or other appointee - between the winner and the money with fiduciary responsibilities.

"You're anonymous, and that part's very, very good," Ms. Bradley said.

Not everyone takes that path, though.

West Virginian Jack Whittaker didn't hide from the world when he won a whopping $314.9 million Powerball jackpot in 2002. He celebrated his good fortune and shared it with his home state, giving away tens of millions to philanthropy.

But he also suffered after his big win. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were stolen from his cars, home, and office, he lost his granddaughter to a drug overdose, and he pleaded no contest to attacking a bar manager. He was arrested twice for drunken driving and ordered into rehab.

The simplest lesson - explored in a famous 1978 study - is that more money doesn't always lead to more happiness.

Northwestern University researchers compared the happiness of lottery winners with paraplegics and quadriplegics. At first, lottery winners reported feelings of extreme happiness and the accident victims despair. But within a few months, each group had returned to about the same level of happiness they had before the life-changing event.

Still, the vast majority of lottery winners wouldn't want to give the money back.

"A lot of the publicity is really negative about people - that they've got hit men ... they waste all the money. I'm sure that does happen. I just know there are a lot of people who really do adjust successfully," said Eileen Gallo, a California psychotherapist who wrote her doctoral dissertation about sudden wealth.

H. Roy Kaplan, who teaches at the University of South Florida and has interviewed hundreds of lottery winners over the years, agreed: "For most people, it's a positive influence."

"I found some people, their lives were saved by winning. They were in dirty, deleterious jobs and it gave them a chance to retire," continued Mr. Kaplan, who wrote the 1978 book Lottery Winners: How they won and how winning changed their lives.

Many young people become entrepreneurs and their own bosses, he said.

In most cases, the first thing a winner does is buy a house, car, or go on vacation, said David Gale, executive director of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.

"If they choose the money in installment options, pretty much that first one they go out and have a good time," he said. "After that, they recognize for the most part that financial security is really what they've won."

Mr. Kaplan's advice - aside from, "Give me the money. I'd have a great time with it" - is to take things slow.

"Don't do anything right away," he said. "Don't quit [your job]. Take a leave of absence, get a financial planner. Don't do anything precipitously. Take a couple weeks off and think about it. You never have to worry again if you do it the right way."

As modern jackpots grow, the problems will remain the same, he predicted.

"The same kinds of issues will always be out there: letters begging for money, phone calls, notoriety. Just the sums change."


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Archive: 3 October 2005

 
EXCLUSIVE: CORRUPTION COPS TO QUIZ MAGGIE
 
Top secret probe into US 'favours for freebies scandal'
By Bob Roberts

MARGARET Thatcher is to be questioned by police over a secret corruption probe.

The 79-year-old former Premier is said to have met Republican Congressman Tom DeLay while he was on a suspected favours-for-freebies scam run by shady US lobbyists.

In return for his free holiday, DeLay - who resigned as Republican leader of Congress last week after being accused of laundering political funds - allegedly backed legislation favourable to lobby groups.

Disclosing that US authorities were seeking aid from UK counterparts, a secret Home Office briefing says: "One visit to the UK involved a meeting with Mrs Margaret Thatcher.

"Evidence is sought from her about that meeting and her involvement in the alleged deception and violation of US criminal laws."

Police will "sensitively" investigate the meeting, which took place in May 2000.

In the dossier headed "Secret...wider circulation strictly forbidden", civil servants then warn ministers: "There would be considerable press interest in this case if it were to become public knowledge.

"We have been asked by the US to keep this request 'sealed', which we take to mean as confidential as possible. This has been relayed to the Crown Office and Metropolitan Police.

"Our normal line is that we neither confirm nor deny the existence of any request until it is in the public domain and there is no reason to change that course of action here."

The revelations will be a body-blow to Lady Thatcher's reputation and dash Tory morale on the opening day of its crucial party conference.

If Lady Thatcher is found to have been involved in the alleged scam she could face a criminal probe in the US or even be banned from travelling to the country.

Her spokesman confirmed police had been in contact about the DeLay meeting. But he insisted there was no question of wrongdoing.

The document, leaked to the Mirror, informs ministers there has been an official request for "mutual legal assistance" from the US Department of Justice in Washington.

It said the request was part of a deception investigation "involving high-profile American and UK-based individuals, including a leading Congressman and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher". At the centre of the probe is high-profile lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is already under investigation in the US.

The document says: "US officials are investigating whether Abramoff was involved in obtaining legislative assistance from public officials in exchange for arranging and underwriting trips to the UK."

Investigators are also probing whether the public officials filed false reports relating to the trips.

The holidays involved playing golf at St Andrews in Scotland, dinner with unnamed members of the Scottish Parliament, theatre trips in London and luxury hotel accommodation.

Mr DeLay's staff also scheduled a meeting with Lady Thatcher.

The briefing adds that police investigating the meeting "have been asked to handle these inquiries sensitively given the nature of the individual concerned and the background to the request". Members of the Scottish Parliament will be questioned concerning any contacts they may have had with Abramoff, DeLay or members of their party.

Scottish police will collect hotel record, bills, invoices, and statements.

Lady Thatcher's spokesman said last night: "An approach was made to her office to confirm the bare details of the particular meeting. At this stage we are expecting nothing further.

"Lady Thatcher met Mr DeLay as as one politician meeting another. It was in no way a business meeting."

The Thatcher family's reputation has tarnished since she left office.

Her son Mark, 52, was fined £265,000 last year for helping to organise an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea.

There are also growing fears about the health of Lady Thatcher, who is 80 next Thursday.

Yesterday she was described as "increasingly forgetful and forbidden to speak in public".

She has had a number of strokes and is said to have been badly shaken by the collapse of her son's marriage.

Congressman DeLay, nicknamed The Hammer because of his tough-guy reputation, denies criminal conspiracy relating to party funds.

Abramoff insists he is innocent of any wrongdoing concerning millions of dollars in funding he received for helping Indian tribes set up casinos in their tribal homelands.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We neither confirm nor deny receipt of requests of legal assistance."

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