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Honours for cash - 'nobody to face charges'.

THERE was widespread speculation last night that the long-running cash-for-honours inquiry will end today without charges being brought.

Simultaneous reports on Sky News and BBC1's 10 O'Clock News last night quoted unnamed sources as saying that the Crown Prosecution Service would announce that no-one will be charged with any offences in connection with the allegations of the sale of honours.

But a spokeswoman for the CPS, which is responsible for deciding on charges, refused to comment on the report, saying only: "The decision-making process is ongoing.

"We have no guidance on timing and if the media want to call us tomorrow, that is entirely up to them."

Neither Scotland Yard nor 10 Downing Street would make any comment on the claim that an announcement was due today.

The Metropolitan Police inquiry was launched in March last year after allegations from Scottish National Party MP Angus MacNeil that four wealthy individuals had been nominated for peerages after lending Labour large sums of money.

The individuals were among 12 rich backers who together bankrolled Labour's 2005 General Election campaign with loans worth almost pounds 14m.

During the course of the investigation, former Prime Minister Tony Blair was questioned three times by police - always as a witness, not a suspect. Four people were arrested, including Mr Blair's personal fundraiser Lord Levy, Downing Street aide Ruth Turner and biotech tycoon Sir Christopher Evans, who lent Labour pounds 1m, all of whom are on police bail.

The CPS have already announced that there will be no charge against the other person arrested, former teacher Des Smith, who advised the Government on its academy school programme.

As the Metropolitan Police investigation progressed, inquiries were widened to cover loans to the Conservative Party.

Lord Levy and Ms Turner were also questioned about allegations relating to perversion of the course of justice.

Labour's former minister Denis MacShane, who has long been critical of the Scotland Yard inquiry, said: "It is a tragedy for Scotland Yard that they allowed themselves to be dragged into a wholly politically-motivated and entirely malicious investigation."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 20, 2007
Words:342
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