Monday, March 05, 2007

CASH FOR HONOURS: Fury over 'bid to destroy' probe

By Ian Kirby and Lucy Panton

DETECTIVES involved in the cash-for-honours inquiry believe Downing Street is trying to wreck their investigation by leaking top secret evidence.

They hit out after being forced to get Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to issue an injunction on Friday night — stopping the BBC from running new allegations about the probe.

We can reveal police acted after the Beeb obtained an email understood to contain damning evidence about an alleged cover-up by No 10 officials over giving peerages to prominent Labour Party donors.

The row puts the spotlight on Labour fundraiser Lord Levy and Downing Street aide Ruth Turner.

They have each been arrested and questioned twice during the 11-month inquiry, as the investigation concentrated at first on cash-for-honours and then on allegations of a cover-up. Downing Street has consistently denied any wrong-doing over the inquiry.

But furious detectives believe the leak was a deliberate attempt to destroy the probe, which is now in its final stages.

A Crown Prosecution Service source said: "We believe the leaks are coming from government sources who are trying to disrupt the inquiry.

"If evidence police are hoping to rely on appears in the media it could bring down the whole case. Those in the firing line are well aware of that."

The move for an injunction also prompted intense speculation that charges could be imminent.

The News of the World has learned that detectives believe they have uncovered clear evidence to bring charges alleging a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell said he believed Lord Goldsmith had intervened because charges were imminent.

He explained: "The important thing to remember is that the Attorney General acts in the public interest and, in particular, he has an interest to ensure that no possible prosecution is prejudiced and no possible defence is prejudiced.

"The inference of Lord Goldsmith's actions was that he at least contemplates the possibility that a prosecution of some kind will follow."

And media lawyer Mark Stephens said: "I would expect a development this weekend. I would be astonished if there wasn't."

No comments: