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Lord Levy, Ruth Turner may be charged

Two close allies of British Prime Minister Tony Blair may face charges in the "cash-for-honours" scandal, police said on Saturday.

world Updated: Apr 21, 2007 22:01 IST

Two close allies of British Prime Minister Tony Blair may face charges in the "cash-for-honours" scandal, police said on Saturday.

Investigators handed a file on Friday to The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which will take at least three months before deciding if it should charge Lord Levy, Blair's chief fundraiser and Ruth Turner, No 10 Downing Street's director of government relations, The Times reported.

An inquiry into the scam was launched a year ago amid claims of political parties illegally offering financial supporters seats in parliament's unelected upper House of Lords.

Police had previously discussed possible charges against Sir Christopher Evans, the biotech tycoon, Jonathan Powell, Blair's longest-serving aide, and John McTernan, the prime minister's political secretary, the report said.

Blair's final weeks as prime minister - and the local elections in May - will be overshadowed by the CPS's decision.

He is the first Prime Minister to be questioned in office as part of a criminal investigation - a 13-month inquiry into corruption allegations that has shaken the ruling Labour Party to its core.

The 216-page file, the 12th sent by Scotland Yard's Specialist Crime Directorate, was the main body of evidence compiled by the police.

The decision on whether to bring charges will be made by Carmen Dowd, head of the Special Crime Division at the CPS.

She is relying heavily upon the advice of David Perry, QC, one of Britain's leading criminal barristers.

Any decision was at least three months away because of the sheer volume of evidence, prosecutors said. Detectives have interviewed 136 people and given the CPS reports and 6,300 documents.

Sir Ken Macdonald, the director of Public Prosecutions, has said that he would stand back from any decision. However, Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general and an associate of Blair, may also be consulted about any prosecution. His possible intervention has concerned some MPs, who say that he must not get involved.

Angus MacNeil, the Scottish Nationalist MP whose complaint sparked the inquiry, said: "The attorney-general was appointed to his post by the prime minister, who himself is at the epicenter of the allegations. It is simply untenable for him to have any role in this case, and he must step back from that now."

The investigation began after it emerged that the House of Lords Appointments Commission had blocked the award of peerages to four wealthy Labour backers including NRI industrialist Sir Gulam Noon who gave undisclosed loans to the party in the run-up to the 2005 general election.

Sir Christopher, founder of Merlin Biosciences, who lent Labour one million pounds before the election, is the only other person who remains under arrest as part of the inquiry.