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EDITIONS
Monday, 16 December, 2002, 15:32 GMT
Cherie controversy at-a-glance
How the row over Cherie Blair's links with Peter Foster unfolded
Sunday 1 December
  • The Mail on Sunday alleges that convicted fraudster Mr Foster boasted to business contacts that Mrs Blair had asked him to negotiate the purchase of two luxury flats in Bristol
  • Foster said he used the Blair name to get a 20,000 discount on each flat
  • The paper says Peter Foster became part of Cherie Blair's "inner circle" after starting a relationship with Carole Caplin, her "fitness guru"


Monday 2 December

  • Downing Street says Peter Foster was not Mrs Blair's financial adviser
  • It says the Prime Minister had never met Mr Foster and Mr Foster had never visited Downing Street or Chequers
  • Asked about reports that one of the flats was for Euan, the Blairs' eldest son, Downing Street says where he lives is a private matter

Tuesday 3 December

  • Downing Street insists that if there had been negotiations over the purchase of property they would have been carried out by Mrs Blair and her lawyer.

Thursday 5 December

  • The Daily Mail publishes e-mail correspondence between Mr Foster and Mrs Blair
  • In them, Mr Foster tells Mrs Blair he has managed to get the property price down
  • He says his accountant is able to obtain a mortgage for her
  • After being sent the forms she needs to fill in, Mrs Blair tells Foster: "You are a star, I have sent them off."
  • Foster says he has got a letting agent to reduce his fee

Both Mrs Blair and Mr Foster then issued statements.

Cherie Blair statement:
Released at 1130 on 5 December

  • Mrs Blair issues a statement admitting that Mr Foster was involved in the flats purchase
  • She says she was told about the flats complex by a family friend when her son started university in Bristol
  • The asking price on the property was reduced from 295,000 to 269,000 during initial talks
  • Because of work commitments, she asked Carole Caplin to look at the properties
  • She says that at that point, Mrs Blair had not met Foster and knew nothing of his past
  • She has since only met Foster once "by chance"
  • He was not her financial adviser
  • He helped in talking to property agents but was not involved in the vast bulk of her thick file on the purchase
  • She regretted any misunderstanding caused by her desire to keep a private matter out of the public domain
  • Foster never spoke to Tony Blair, nor did he meet Euan Blair at the property

Peter Foster's statement 1515 5 December

  • His dealings with Mrs Blair were confidential and will remain so - "I will never comment"
  • He "naturally regrets" his past but has paid his dues for his mistakes
  • He had never been accused or charged with stealing money - instead they were over trading standards - "so maybe after all I'm not such a fraudster"
  • He asked the media to give him and Carole Caplin privacy after the sad loss of their child

Sunday 8 December

  • Downing Street confirms that money from the Blairs' "blind trust" was used to buy the flats
  • Number 10 insists no rules have been broken
  • Conservatives and Liberal Democrats raise concerns about the involvement of the Number 10 press office

Monday 9 December

  • Peter Foster's solicitors issue a statement about allegations that Mrs Blair contacted them about Mr Foster's deportation case
  • They say Mrs Blair took part in a conference phone call with them on 22 November
  • They say this was only "to reassure" his girlfriend, Ms Caplin
  • There was nothing untoward about the immigration proceedings, they add
  • Mrs Blair "did not intrude into our conduct of the proceedings and for the avoidance of doubt, had no say whatsoever in our choice of representation"

Tony Blair response
Monday 9 December

  • Mr Blair responds to questions from Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith
  • He says: "At no point did Mrs Blair interfere in the immigration case proceedings. Nor would she."
  • The call to the solicitors had been "short" and aimed at helping Ms Caplin
  • Tony Blair himself said the case was handled "entirely properly" and there had been no "political interference"

Tuesday 10 December

  • The Tories question whether plans to deport Peter Foster were speeded up after the controversy went public
  • They demand a short independent inquiry into how the case was handled - a call branded "completely unjustified" by Home Office Minister Lord Falconer
  • Downing Street accuses the media of a "deliberate campaign of character assassination" against Mrs Blair
  • Number 10 says Mrs Blair did not know the details of Foster's troubled past even when she spoke to his solicitor
  • Mrs Blair makes a full and public statement, admitting she made mistakes and apologising for any embarrassment caused

Wednesday 11 December

  • Tony Blair speaks of his pride for his wife and says some sections of the media have created "a mountain of distortion and half truth"
  • Iain Duncan Smith says only an independent inquiry into the government's role can restore Number 10's integrity
  • The prime minister insists all questions have been properly answered

Thursday 12 December

  • The Scotsman newspaper publishes fresh allegations, claiming Mrs Blair was more intimately involved in Mr Foster's extradition case than previously acknowledged by Downing Street.
  • The paper claims Mrs Blair asked for and received the defence case against deportation
  • It also says she asked for and received the Crown case to have him deported - those papers were faxed to her by Peter Foster's solicitor
  • And then faxed Peter Foster to discuss the case
  • It claims she then advised Mr Foster's lawyers that they ought to include a human rights defence element
  • But the claim that Mrs Blair asked for and received a fax detailing the defence case was promptly denied Ms Caplin, in her first public statement on the affair
  • The former model turned lifestyle guru said she had asked for the fax, when she was at Mrs Blair's flat
  • She said Mrs Blair had refused to look at its contents
  • This version of events was backed up by Downing Street, which dismissed the Scotsman story was "inaccuracies presented as fact"
  • Mr Foster's solicitor, David Janes also appeared to support Downing Street's story
  • In a statement, Mr Janes said his firm had neither sought nor received any advice on the Foster case from Mrs Blair
  • Tony Blair urges people to "move on" from the row, saying everyone had had "their pound of flesh"

Friday 13 December

  • The Sun newspaper publishes transcripts of what it says are telephone conversations between Peter Foster, his brother and his mother
  • The transcripts suggest that Mr Foster tried to sell the story of his involvement with Cherie Blair for thousands of pounds
  • In the transcripts, Mr Foster alleges that Mrs Blair did read details of his case after they were faxed to Downing Street
  • Tony Blair says he will not comment further on the row, but wants to deal with "more important" matters
  • The media agency representing Carole Caplin issues a statement saying it warned Downing Street of a blackmail attempt related to Peter Foster's involvement with Cherie Blair three days before the story of her involvement with Mr Foster broke
  • It says a blackmail letter had been sent to Mr Foster
  • The agency, MacLaurin Media, says it has received numerous media approaches for interviews with both Miss Caplin and Mr Foster, but had advised against selling their stories
  • The agency says Mr Foster will make a statement on Monday 16 December

Saturday 14 December

  • In more transcripts said to be Peter Foster's telephone calls, the convicted fraudster warns of "bullets" to come which he says will damage with Tony and Cherie Blair
  • Mr Foster tells reporters his story is not for sale 'at any price'

Sunday 15 December

  • There are more newspaper reports on the case
  • One says Mr Foster plans to leave the UK and that he will take Carole Caplin with him
  • The News of the World confirms it offered Mr Foster money to tell his story

Monday, 16 December

  • Foster says he has not decided to return to Australia and will continue his appeal against deportation
  • He says his story is not on offer "at any price", but he is planning the last chapters of his autobiography
  • He denies targeting the Blairs and apologises to them for the "mess" his help has caused
  • Cherie Blair gave him advice about his legal case, but did not interfere with the legal process, says Foster
  • He accuses the media of a "character assassination" against him

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See also:

05 Dec 02 | Politics
08 Aug 00 | Politics
05 Dec 02 | Politics
19 Jun 02 | UK
18 Jun 02 | Politics

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