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Conman Scandal: Blair

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Conman scandal: Blair's wife sorry

Tuesday, December 10, 2002 Posted: 2014 GMT

It really didn't cross my mind that he was going to land me in the mess that I am now in. -- Cherie Blair

LONDON, England -- The tearful wife of Britain's prime minister has faced the cameras for the first time since becoming embroiled in a scandal over her use of a convicted fraudster as a middleman when she bought two luxury flats.

Cherie Blair said she only met Peter Foster, who is facing deportation from Britain, once and that he was the boyfriend of one of her close friends.

In the latest twist to a story that has gripped the British media and asked questions about the behaviour of Downing Street's spin machine, she said on Tuesday: "I had no idea he had been in jail in more than one country, including in this country."

Blair said: "I am sorry if I have embarrassed anyone but the people who know me know I would never want to harm anyone...or misuse my position in any way at all."

She conceded she had made two mistakes -- brushing off media questions in what she said was an attempt to protect her family's privacy and allowing someone she barely knew (Foster) to become involved in her family's affairs.

"Even when I learned his name I had no idea who he was and I didn't know the full story until a couple of weeks ago when the police alerted us that a newspaper was trying to set me up in a meeting with him," Blair said.

She said she had decided to make a public statement because it was "not fair to Tony, or to the government that the focus of political debate is about me."

She also said she realised she must speak out after some of the press were effectively suggesting she had tried to influence a judge in the Foster deportation case.

Foster is in a relationship with Cherie Blair's friend Carole Caplin, a former glamour model who is pregnant with his baby. Cherie Blair described Caplinher close friends.

In the latest twist to a story that has gripped the British media and asked questions about the behaviour of Downing Street's spin machine, she said on Tuesday: "I had no idea he had been in jail in more than one country, including in this country."

Blair said: "I am sorry if I have embarrassed anyone but the people who know me know I would never want to harm anyone...or misuse my position in any way at all."

She conceded she had made two mistakes -- brushing off media questions in what she said was an attempt to protect her family's privacy and allowing someone she barely knew (Foster) to become involved in her family's affairs.

"Even when I learned his name I had no idea who he was and I didn't know the full story until a couple of weeks ago when the police alerted us that a newspaper was trying to set me up in a meeting with him," Blair said.

She said she had decided to make a public statement because it was "not fair to Tony, or to the government that the focus of political debate is about me."

She also said she realised she must speak out after some of the press were effectively suggesting she had tried to influence a judge in the Foster deportation case.

Foster is in a relationship with Cherie Blair's friend Carole Caplin, a former glamour model who is pregnant with his baby. Cherie Blair described Caplin in her speech as "a trusted friend."

She added that when she heard about Foster, "it really didn't cross my mind that he was going to land me in the mess that I am now in."

Opposition attack

The row has engulfed the government with the opposition Conservatives demanding an independent inquiry into whether the ruling Labour administration intervened in the deportation case of Foster.

Blair's opponents waded into the saga -- which has raged in British newspapers for a week -- after Foster's solicitors said the UK Home Office had brought forward deportation proceedings against him just as the media was exposing his links to Cherie.

The lawyers also said Cherie Blair had phoned them to talk about Foster's deportation -- an allegation Mrs. Blair subsequently admitted despite earlier saying she was not aware of his criminal past.

On Tuesday she insisted she had only tried to reassure Caplin that Foster's case was being treated normally.

Leaked e-mails showed Foster, 40, had helped her with the purchase of two apartments in Bristol, southwest England, again despite initial denials by the prime minister's press office.

Earlier on Tuesday, Tony Blair's spokesman criticised newspaper stories questioning Cherie Blair's links to Foster, saying she had done nothing wrong and was the victim of a "deliberate campaign of character assassination in her speech as "a trusted friend."

She added that when she heard about Foster, "it really didn't cross my mind that he was going to land me in the mess that I am now in."

Opposition attack

The row has engulfed the government with the opposition Conservatives demanding an independent inquiry into whether the ruling Labour administration intervened in the deportation case of Foster.

Blair's opponents waded into the saga -- which has raged in British newspapers for a week -- after Foster's solicitors said the UK Home Office had brought forward deportation proceedings against him just as the media was exposing his links to Cherie.

The lawyers also said Cherie Blair had phoned them to talk about Foster's deportation -- an allegation Mrs. Blair subsequently admitted despite earlier saying she was not aware of his criminal past.

On Tuesday she insisted she had only tried to reassure Caplin that Foster's case was being treated normally.

Leaked e-mails showed Foster, 40, had helped her with the purchase of two apartments in Bristol, southwest England, again despite initial denials by the prime minister's press office.

Earlier on Tuesday, Tony Blair's spokesman criticised newspaper stories questioning Cherie Blair's links to Foster, saying she had done nothing wrong and was the victim of a "deliberate campaign of character assassination."

Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin said on BBC radio: "We're talking about a quite simple question: 'did anybody from anywhere including Number 10 ring the Home Office to accelerate the deportation or does it have an entirely innocent explanation?'"

Cherie Blair has been under pressure for more than a week after a national newspaper reported that Foster helped her to buy two apartments for £538,000 ($850,000) in Bristol.

Cherie and her husband's office turned the saga into a political crisis by at first appearing to deny, then confirming, that ex-convict Foster arranged the deal.

The UK Home Office initiated deportation proceedings against Foster in September because of his criminal convictions, saying his presence was "not conducive to the public good." However, he was subsequently allowed to stay in Britain pending appeal.

Foster has been jailed in Britain, Australia and the U.S. for selling bogus slimming teas and using fraudulent documents. He is wanted in Australia in connection with another weight loss scam.

He became a contact of Cherie Blair -- a prominent UK civil rights lawyer and part-time judge -- because he is the boyfriend of Caplin who is her style and fitness "guru."

Tony Blair was sucked into the controversy when it was revealed that his wife had bought the apartments using money from a "blind trust" fund in a."

Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin said on BBC radio: "We're talking about a quite simple question: 'did anybody from anywhere including Number 10 ring the Home Office to accelerate the deportation or does it have an entirely innocent explanation?'"

Cherie Blair has been under pressure for more than a week after a national newspaper reported that Foster helped her to buy two apartments for £538,000 ($850,000) in Bristol.

Cherie and her husband's office turned the saga into a political crisis by at first appearing to deny, then confirming, that ex-convict Foster arranged the deal.

The UK Home Office initiated deportation proceedings against Foster in September because of his criminal convictions, saying his presence was "not conducive to the public good." However, he was subsequently allowed to stay in Britain pending appeal.

Foster has been jailed in Britain, Australia and the U.S. for selling bogus slimming teas and using fraudulent documents. He is wanted in Australia in connection with another weight loss scam.

He became a contact of Cherie Blair -- a prominent UK civil rights lawyer and part-time judge -- because he is the boyfriend of Caplin who is her style and fitness "guru."

Tony Blair was sucked into the controversy when it was revealed that his wife had bought the apartments using money from a "blind trust" fund in an apparent breach of normal procedure -- though the PM was cleared by officials of any abuse of procedures.

Foster allegedly saved Cherie Blair £52,000 ($82,000) on the deal. One was bought for their son Euan, who is going to university in the city, and the other was bought as an investment.

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