Labour donor: honours were 'mentioned'

Now tycoon fears he is being deliberately briefed against by 'people outside the police'
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Indy Politics

Sir Christopher Evans, the Labour donor arrested in the cash for honours inquiry, has admitted that party figures "mentioned" peerages to him in the past.

He has told friends he fears that he is being deliberately briefed against in an attempt to make him appear the central figure in the police inquiry.

The Independent on Sunday has learned that the biotechnology tycoon believes there are people outside the police "trying to place me at the centre of the investigation".

Sir Christopher is the only Labour lender to have been arrested over cash for honours. He has been the subject of intense speculation about his role in the inquiry.

He told friends last week that he did speak to Labour figures about honours, but said he believed such general conversations have been overblown.

Downing Street yesterday refused to confirm that the police have been in contact about a further interview with Tony Blair and with the senior No 10 officials Ruth Turner, Jonathan Powell and John McTernan. Police investigators are believed to want to ask more questions about apparent conflicts in the testimony of Downing Street figures.

Sir Christopher has not been interviewed again since his arrest last year. But there has been speculation that he is a key figure in the Scotland Yard inquiry into cash for honours. Notes taken by the biotechnology tycoon of a conversation he had which refer to talk of "a K [knighthood] or a big P [peerage]?" are being examined by the police.

But Sir Christopher is said to be dismayed that so much has been made of this conversation, one made before he was given a knighthood.

A friend said: "He is mystified by so much being made of people having mentioned honours, politics and peerages to him in the past. That happened. But why should people be surprised at that because of his close connections with the Labour Party and the Government?"

A close friend of the tycoon said: "He is absolutely sick and tired of every twist and turn being played out in public. He is absolutely frustrated at being continually being put in the spotlight of the inquiry by people who don't know what is going on. They are fuelled by speculation from people who don't know how the investigation is developing.

"He does not want to get into discussions about the details of the investigation and has co-operated fully with the police," he said.

Sir Christopher is believed to have been considered for a peerage by Downing Street, but not offered one in the final 2005 honours list. He lent Labour £1m after he was approached for a donation.

He said he would prefer, for financial reasons, to give a loan and is in the process of being repaid.

The businessman, who met Tony Blair on several occasions, is frustrated that he has not yet been repaid in full.