Operation Ribble Closes :When Will Levy Be Charged?

The CPS got the final tranche of the Operation Ribble files on Friday.* The Met let the press know in no uncertain terms that they expected charges against the Sleaze Master General himself, Ruth Turner and Sir Chris Evans. If Powell faces charges too, it will be a devastating denouement to the Blair era. Blair himself is widely expected to escape without being charged, the documentary evidence being too weak.

The CPS could make a decision as soon as June, at a time when many expect the Blair-Brown handover to be in process. Guido has long believed that the police would not be fazed by dealing with powerful political figures, that Levy would inevitably face charges and is now convinced that senior figures at the CPS will not find it possible to sweep things under the carpet. Lord Goldsmith may not even be in office when the decision to prosecute is made, it could well be a Brown appointee. If Brown’s Attorney General were to block charges the prospect of a private prosecution being brought remains. Soundings have already been taken by interested parties at the Inner Temple about this possibility.

If the Attorney General were to then enter a plea of nolle prosequi, claiming it would not be in the public interest to put Blair’s lieutenants on trial, Brown’s administration would forever be tainted with covering up his predecessor’s corruption. Something Brown is unlikely to countenance.

One way or another, this is going to go all the way.

*Guido was at the time supping champagne at Pascal Aussignac’s Club Gascon.

Yates Writes to Public Administration Select Committee

Doesn’t really say a lot, does say he has enough staff and an “extremely secure environment” (just round the corner from Scotland Yard).

Download the letter here.

McTernan Documentation

The Law Report for Attorney-General v British Broadcasting Corporation contains a little nugget Guido hadn’t noticed before. The three categories of documentation identified were:

A Material relating to policy strategy in conducting their future investigations. As to that, the judge said that the real concern of the police was that they wished to put the document to several individuals who might be suspects. They considered that there was a risk that if information about the document was published, that would give potential interviewees the opportunity to frustrate the investigation.

B Material of a factual nature: The police regarded the document in question as a key document in the investigation into the perversion of the course of justice, whose deployment was a matter of real interest and concern and the police were for that reason concerned about it receiving advanced publicity in the media. The document was not an email, it ran to several pages and contained far more information. There was a real question mark as to whether Mr Powell, the addressee, ever received it and the investigating officers were very interested to discover whether he did so or not.

C Material related to Mr John McTernan, director of political operations at Downing Street.

Most of Westminster thinks he has grassed or cut a deal to save his skin. The whole Loans for Lordships affair has, at the very least, cost him his much desired safe seat.

No doubt John will take precious time out from overseeing the decimation of the Labour party in Scotland to post again in the comments telling us how he is in the clear and Guido gets it all wrong. We shall see…

Levy On the Edge

It was a year ago that Guido said Levy would be charged (and started taking bets) it has taken the press and the Lobby a long time to fully come around to Guido’s way of thinking.

The Indy reckons Levy ‘feels let down and is about to turn on the Labour Party, the Sunday Times says Blair aides ‘plotted’ to foil police.

If (as is widely believed around Westminster) McTernan has grassed about the alleged cover-up, then Powell, previously perceived as too clever to get caught, could also be in trouble and dodgy donor Chris Evans can expect his day in court as well.

Here is Guido’s advice to Levy…

Sleazy Levy Complains of “Trial by Media”

Levy’s lawyers have just released a statement complaining, wait for it, of “trial by media”.

Well perhaps he should stop ringing up political editors and briefing them in that case? All those unnamed “friends” quoted in the press are him, briefing…

UPDATE : 13:30 The Metropolitan Police have released a statement effectively accusing the Guardian of undermining their case.

UPDATE : 14:00 “There has been a regular stream of leaks to the media during this year-long investigation, all of which have presented a prejudiced and distorted view” say Levy’s lawyers. Of course Lord Levy’s off-the-record briefings to journalists are not prejudiced or distorted in the slightest.

Robinson Hints Source Not Necessarily Downing Street

Beware of source speculation says Robinson, reading between the lines he is saying it was a blend of sources “In my experience of journalism it is rarely as simple as one side or the other handing you a story or a document on a plate.”

How can an email have multiple sources Nick?

Meanwhile, back in Court, the Beeb got the injunction amended and can now report of the email “It was sent to Tony Blair’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, and concerned Labour’s chief fundraiser Lord Levy.”

UPDATE : Subsequent revelations point to it being a document rather than an email, it apparently was prepared for Ruth’s lawyers or perhaps originally intended for Powell’s eyes. Possibly it was produced on the legendary Downing Street Lotus Notes system.

Cui Bono: Is Downing Street the Leak Source?

Guido is very wary as we enter the closing straights of the investigation. Downing Street is in serious trouble and the only defence advanced so far is that the peerage nominations were for “party peerages”. That is a non-existent class of honour and the admission in itself was effectively a confession, not a defence.

The BBC appears to be in a position to stand up the story going around in mid-January about a “Smoking Gun” email. Why else would the police want to injunct the story unless it was correct and revealing? The question is, who passed the email to the Beeb and what is their motive?

Fact : the BBC does not do cheque-book journalism.
Fact : Yates’ team are, whatever the spin from Downing Street apologists, very tight-lipped.

When news of arrests and interviews has come out, it has more often than not been from the politicians themselves. Given that the Beeb didn’t buy this story, who profits from revealing crucial police evidence? Not the investigators, which is why the police sought to suppress the story, because defence lawyers could make much mischief, and probably will, with the “trial by media” line.

To quote the most famous detective of all, “If you eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, even if improbable, must be true.” Those under investigation, now that they believe it no longer possible to “fix” the CPS because of the evidence known to have been discovered, have the most to benefit from bringing the evidence into the public domain. The desperadoes of Downing Street would not be above leaking against themselves, tactically it would also allow them to portray themselves as victims of media savvy police investigators. They already brief that the police are “theatrical” and whine that they are unable to publicly defend themselves from the “trial by media”.

These are dangerous times for Downing Street’s toughest street fighters. The gloves are definitely off, which is why Guido thinks this leak has Downing Street’s fingerprints on it.

++ SKY : RUTH TURNER WAS QUESTIONED AGAIN ++

UPDATE : She reported to the police yesterday under the terms of her bail. She was re-interviewed, which technically is re-arrest methinks.

Sleazy Levy Shaky

Reports are reaching Guido from different directions as to the increasingly erratic personal behaviour of the man at the centre of the Loans for Lordships scandal.

Well the mental pressure must be immense, what will his defence be? Guido fears it may all get too much for him in the way that it did for Ernie Saunders. Whatever happened to Ernie?

Funny Turner

Variations on these are going round Westminster:

Q. What do you have to be get off Loans-for-Lordship’s charges?
A. Ruthless.

Q. What do you call Labour Party HQ without Loans-for-Lordships?
A. Roofless.

Levy isn’t laughing…

Loans for Lordships : Still Taking Bets

The news that Catholic school headmaster Des Smith will not face charges suggests that we are entering the endgame for the investigation. Guido is still good for bets.

If anybody wants to step up to the plate and bet that nobody will be charged, do email Guido.

Still haven’t seen a payment from the Observer’s Mark Townsend. He predicted the investigation would be all over in October. The Speccie’s Fraser Nelson is studying the wine list. Anyone else care to risk reputation and wallet?

Update : An Über-Blairite-Ultra-Outrider has emailed to say he is on for “20 notes”. Presumably he means £20. Though he should note they don’t print pound notes nowadays.

McTernan Grassed

According to the News of the World, Downing Street’s Director of Political Operations, John McTernan, has grassed on Ruth Turner, Lord Levy, Tony Blair and his chief of staff Jonathan Powell. The Screws’ story is a tale of deleted emails, and secret meetings about enobling donors. Blair will be re-interviewed under caution, they claim, having failed to give the police answers to many questions.

If the Screws’ story is correct, the game is up for the Blairites.

Let’s Do the Perp Walk Again!

Levy really should have taken Guido’s advice when he had the chance, shouldn’t he?

This is not the end, but it is the beginning of the end…

Can’t wait for the PMOS’ explanation tomorrow. “There is no Lord Levy in Downing Street, there is no other email system, from which nothing was deleted, no honours were sold etc…”

Guido was in the supermarket when he heard the news. He left the fruit and veg and proceeded to the champagnes. Well why not…

Fancy a Bet Fraser?

In this week’s Speccie Fraser Nelson has a breathless piece on the Tory fundraising bonanza which includes, as an aside, the news that

“the once-formidable Blair-Levy double-act has been closed by the Metropolitan Police’s investigation, soon to be handed to the Crown Prosecution Service. It will not, I understand, end in charges for Tony Blair or any of his senior lieutenants.”

Fancy a bet Fraser? Loser buys lunch and a decent bottle of wine. Suspect the toast will be to the boys in blue…


Incidentally, the Observer’s Mark Townsend, still hasn’t paid up, but promises “soon”. It has been three months…

UPDATE : Fraser Nelson has been in touch and the bet is on. He warns “I have an expensive taste in wine!” Excellent, so he won’t mind Guido’s choice…

A Story That Got filed Under Crazy

A co-conspirator has re-sent an email Guido ignored in September. With Guido’s seasoned nose for a story it was, errm, disbelieved. Doh!

The Blair Foundation is going to be TB’s main post-No. 10 vehicle for self-publicity 21st century. Think Clinton Foundation/Clinton Global Initiative. First main focus is planned to be the Middle East – mainly Israel/Palestine, but watch this space for quick focus switch to Syria, even Iran. Funding is targeted to be coming from big donors/businesses in the US. And the connection to Cash4Honours?

Well, when TB needs lots of money for a big project, who does he turn to? Of course, Lord Cashpoint. Levy was asked to be chief fundraiser some months ago. The plan was for him to go fundraising in the US, later this year, say about the same time that Blair finally decides to pick up his congressional medal, with the accompanying press coverage, goodwill etc etc.

Last I heard plans have not changed. Lets just hope Levy gets out of the country before they make him do the perp walk.

Quite spookily Finkelstein was damn close in this article.

Jerusalem’s medical community is experienced with dealing mental cases who arrive from all over the world proclaiming themselves to be the Second Coming or the New Messiah. Blair may prove to a difficult case, if he actually believes he can be some kind of latter day Jimmy Carter bringing peace to the Middle East he is going to present quite a challenge for Jerusalem’s psychiatrists. “Y’know, I brought peace and freedom to Iraq, I want to do the same for Israel…”

“It’s Gotta Be Worth a ‘K’!”

Rumour going round that a showbiz figure is prepared to testify that Sleazy Levy offered him a “K” for a donation.

Labour Lawyer’s Looking to Knock Party’s Debts?

The Guardian’s David Hencke has a story which seems speculative, is unattributed and improbable (he really should get a blog). He claims that disgruntled Labour supporting lawyers and activists are contemplating a judicial review of the loans that could have them ruled ultra vires. The debts would then become due from Blair, Levy and Carter.

Guido thinks such a ruse to bankrupt Blair et al unlikely to succeed, the money was spent by the Labour party, Blair was party leader and Carter general secretary. Would be fun to see them wriggling in court.

Guido has however heard Tory-inclined lawyers contemplating over their brandies the prospect of bringing a private prosecution in the event that the CPS fails to take action. Guido is good for a grand towards costs and suspects many, many others would willingly do the same.

After Levy’s Office Fire, Matt Carter’s Office Tragedy

Matt Carter, the former general secretary of the Labour party, was responsible for organising the delivery of Labour’s successful 2005 general election campaign and is currently the managing director of the London office of Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates.

Presumably it was Matt Carter who authorised the £500,000+ payment for the slogan “Forward, not back” to the same Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates in the run-up to the election. Shortly after the election he joined Penn’s polling organisation in the UK. Typical feather-bedding by a politician at other people’s expense – nothing special.

It was Carter of course who wrote to rich wannabee peers telling them that any loans would not have to be declared. It was Carter who drew up the “commercial loan agreements” which Labour is now unable to re-pay. Obviously his letters, emails and agreement documents are of particular interest to Yates of the Yard and the investigators from Operation Ribble.

He is at the heart of the “cash for peerages” and is expected by many in Westminster to be the fall guy for Blair and Levy’s scam. So it is tragic that he has had four laptop computers stolen from his office in London.

According to the Sunday Herald:

The theft from the Bloomsbury offices of Penn, Schoen & Berland, the Washington DC-headquartered consultancy where Matt Carter is managing director, was reported to police in Holborn on October 9. It is not known what data was kept on the stolen computers.

He was one of only three people said to know the full details of secret loans worth GBP14 million made to the party. The others were Tony Blair and Lord Levy, Labour’s most high-profile fundraiser.

Officers at London’s Holborn police station revealed details of the theft from Carter’s office… The four computers went missing over the weekend prior to October 9… Carter’s office is only one of a number of subsidiary firms owned by the international WPP agency which share an address at 24-28 Bloomsbury Way. Only Carter’s office reported a theft. No other firm at the address reported anything missing, according to the police file..

Carter has made no formal admission that he has been questioned by Yates’s team, but sources close to the investigation maintain he has been questioned on “more than one occasion” on what he knew of the GBP14m raised by Labour from private backers before the last general election.

Yates’ team is known to be using the same software and equipment that the FBI uses to recover deleted data from hard-disks. It is not clear if the lap-tops had already been examined by the police in the way that the computers of Sleazy Levy and Des Smith have been. Following on from Levy’s office fire Guido worries for the offices in Downing Street.

Levy Makes An Admission

Martin Bright has been all over the Loans for Lordships story. In this week’s New Statesman he recounts a recent conversation he had with the Sleaze-Master General himself.

The exchange took place at this year’s Labour Party conference during a reception hosted by the GuardianObserver, where Levy took it upon himself to act as an unofficial “meeter and greeter”.

Levy and I started talking, particularly about a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary on the “cash for honours” affair which I had presented and had been broadcast that same night.

Levy was his legendary charming self. Disarmingly, he told me that his wife had watched the programme and found it very fair. I was delighted, but said there was one matter I felt I had to raise with him. What did he make of the general point I made in the programme: that the loans from wealthy party supporters were not intended as loans, but were to be converted into donations?

He gripped my arm like a long-lost friend and said, by way of answer: “Only some of them.” I asked him what he meant and whether he could point to any specific loans. He volunteered the name of Lord Sainsbury, the billionaire former science minister who had lent the party £2m.

The point is that large donations, under this government’s own legislation, had to be declared, but loans did not. So what exactly was Levy saying to me? Did he misunderstand my original question? That is possible, but he had gone on to give me an example. Was he joking? Again possibly, but it’s an odd matter to joke about. Or was he merely expressing his hope that the loans would be converted into donations?

Guido thinks that this is an admission of some guilt. If Sainsbury’s loan wasn’t really a loan and the intention was always to turn into a donation at some point, that is an offence. A false loan which disguises a donation is surely an evasion of the legally required reporting of donations under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000?

UPDATE : According to an impeccable source who has just emailed me, the Yard’s attention has been drawn to the Martin Bright story in this week’s New Statesman.

Blair Confessed to Offence of Loans for Lordships

If Ann Black’s report of Blair’s remarks to the March 2006 NEC meeting is verified (Blair said the donors “preferred the confidentiality” of a loan) Blair is in deep trouble. He made the remarks before the police investigation started. According to Ann Black –

“Tony Blair said that he understood members’ concerns and took full responsibility for everything done in the name of the party.

[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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