THE TRUTH,THE WHOLE TRUTH AND ANYTHING BUT THE TRUTH; despite Specific Denials from No 10, Cherie DID Help Foster with Fight to Avoid Being Deported That Blind Trust: Mr Blair Cleared Flats Purchase with Civil Service but Only AFTER Deal Was Done

By Rayner, Gordon; Seamark, Michael et al. | Daily Mail (London), December 10, 2002 | Go to article overview

THE TRUTH,THE WHOLE TRUTH AND ANYTHING BUT THE TRUTH; despite Specific Denials from No 10, Cherie DID Help Foster with Fight to Avoid Being Deported That Blind Trust: Mr Blair Cleared Flats Purchase with Civil Service but Only AFTER Deal Was Done


Rayner, Gordon, Seamark, Michael, Hughes, David, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: GORDON RAYNER;MICHAEL SEAMARK;DAVID HUGHES

CHERIE BLAIR'S integrity was in ruins last night after more untruths were exposed in her account of the Foster affair.

In yet another blow to Downing Street, it was revealed that the Prime Minister's wife intervened personally in conman Peter Foster's battle against deportation.

She phoned his solicitor and set up a conference call with Carole Caplin - Foster's girlfriend and Mrs Blair's confidante - to 'reassure her' about the way the case was going.

The bombshell disclosure blew away repeated Downing Street denials that Mrs Blair assisted Foster in his fight to stay. It also emerged that her law firm was asked to represent him.

The revelations plunged Number 10 even deeper into the crisis of credibility which has paralysed Whitehall for over a week. Downing Street has been in a state of near-panic since Mrs Blair's denial that Foster helped her buy two Bristol flats

Continued from Page One was demolished by emails published in the Daily Mail.

Officials also admitted yesterday that Mr Blair did not seek advice on the use of his blind trust to buy the flats - an apparent breach of his own sleaze rules - until after the event.

The Premier himself, in his first public comment, tried to dismiss the scandal as 'media frenzy'.

In an interview with today's Financial Times, he brushed aside concerns about his wife's links with Foster as 'just part of what comes with the territory nowadays'.

Downing Street was first asked about the deportation case by the Mail on Sunday, which revealed the links between Foster and Mrs Blair. A spokesman said it was 'not a matter for us.' Days later, in an official briefing on December 5 , the question was asked: ' Has Cherie Blair been assisting Foster's legal battle against deportation?' Number 10 replied: No.

In a statement last week Mrs Blair dismissed a raft of allegations, including a claim that she intervened in the case.

The issue has since been overshadowed by details of the property deal itself and the use of the Blairs' blind trust.

There is now growing tension between the Blairs and senior civil servants, horrified that official-spokesmen have been made, unwittingly, into liars.

As Downing Street tried to limit the fresh damage, a spokesman denied that Mrs Blair 'interfered' in the case. But Foster's solicitor, David Janes, confirmed that she called him on November 22 and set up the phone conference.

Six days after the call from Mrs Blair, who specialises in human rights cases, Foster claimed in court that his human rights had been breached. There had been no mention of this when his case first came before the High Court.

Foster's deportation battle began on August 31, when he was refused entry after he landed at Luton from Malaga.

The conman, who has served more than three years in jail on three continents and is currently being pursued over an alleged pound sterling1.4million slimming pills scam in Australia, was allowed to stay pending an application for judicial review.

On October 30 Mr Justice Maurice Kay upheld the immigration service's decision. At that stage, Foster's grounds for appeal were that the 1988 Trades Descriptions Act conviction over which he was being refused entry had not carried a deportation order.

By then, he had started acting as negotiator for Mrs Blair in the purchase of the flats.

In one email, dated November 9, Mrs Blair told him: 'I cannot thank you enough Peter for taking over these negotiations for me. I really appreciate it.' Then, on November 22, she made her phone intervention in the deportation case.

Mr Janes said yesterday: 'We have received only one telephone call from Cherie Booth QC. The avowed and plain purpose was to reassure Carole that the immigration proceedings against Peter Foster were being conducted on a regular and normal basis and there was nothing untoward. …

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