Blair Aide Arrested in Honors-for-Cash Probe

Police arrested an aide to Prime Minister Tony Blair in the investigation into whether political honors were traded for cash, his office said Friday.

Ruth Turner, Blair's director of government relations, was questioned on suspicion of being involved in the sale of honors — illegal under British law — and perverting the course of justice, police said.

In a statement, police said Turner, who has worked at Blair's office since 2004, was arrested at her home address and has been released on bail while more inquiries are carried out.

A police spokesman declined to confirm whether computers or documents had been seized from Downing Street as a result, but said officers would not now need a warrant to collect evidence of that type.

"As a result of this new development, additional investigation will be required before a final file can be submitted" to Britain's prosecutors about the case, the police statement said.

Turner is the fourth person, including Labour Party fundraiser Lord Levy, to be arrested in the inquiry which began in April.

Blair was interviewed by detectives last month, becoming the first serving prime minister interviewed in a criminal inquiry. However, he was not interviewed "under caution," meaning it is unlikely he is suspected of committing offenses.

Police are investigating allegations that honors — such as seats in the House of Lords and knighthoods — were given to individuals who loaned money to Blair's Labour Party. Police have also interview Conservative Party officials, including former leader Michael Howard.

Blair has acknowledged some supporters who offered loans were later nominated for honors, but has insisted that he did nothing wrong.

He told police the backers were nominated for House of Lords seats under criteria allowing party leaders to put forward a small number of candidates in reward for their service to a political party — rather than the general public, his spokesman said.

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