Lord Levy denies arranging access to ministers

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Indy Politics

Lord Levy, Tony Blair's personal envoy to the Middle East and one of his most trusted advisers, was embroiled in a fresh controversy over his finances yesterday amid claims of media "dirty tricks" against him.

The millionaire, who is also an important Labour Party fund-raiser, denied arranging access to government ministers for an Australian property company in return for a £100,000 consultancy fee.

The Sunday Times claimed that a company owned by Lord Levy had been paid the sum by Westfield, based in Sydney and one of the world's main retail developers, which is seeking to build big shopping malls in Britain.

The newspaper quoted Peter Allen, Westfield's senior executive in the UK, as saying he was developing relationships with ministers, and had visited Downing Street.

In a strongly worded statement issued yesterday, Lord Levy's office hit back at suggestions that he had acted as a "political consultant" or arranged access to seats of power for the company. The peer's office also revealed that someone had impersonated his solicitor in an attempt to persuade Westfield to release details of hisrelationship with the firm.

"Someone impersonating Lord Levy's solicitor had been phoning the offices of Westfield in Sydney and London in an attempt to 'con' the company into releasing details of the contract between themselves and Lord Levy," the statement contended.

The revelation of such tactics echoes complaints made by Lord Levy two years ago that someone had impersonated him in order to gain access to his confidential tax files. The Sunday Times had claimed that he had paid only £5,000 in taxes despite having assets worth millions.

Lord Levy, who has been in Israel since Easter, also denied that he had broken any parliamentary rules in failing to declare the full details of the £100,000 payment in the House of Lords' Register of Members' Interests.

As the Labour peer was flying back to Britain from the Middle East yesterday, Lord Levy's office insisted: "Any meetings that Westfield, or any of its employees, have had with UK government ministers or officials has taken place without Lord Levy's intervention or knowledge."