Hasan Suroor

LONDON: Labour Party figures close to Prime Minister Tony Blair were on Thursday accused of a "Watergate style cover-up'' over the cash-for-peerages row after it emerged that Mr Blair was questioned by the police a second time last Friday amid allegations of Downing Street's deep involvement in the case.

Earlier this week, Mr Blair's personal friend and Labour's chief fund-raiser, Lord Levy, was re-arrested in connection with the investigations into the alleged scandal. He was first arrested last year and released on bail. This time also he was released after being detained on "suspicion of perverting the course of justice''.

None charged

Last month, one of Mr Blair's most trusted officials, Ruth Turner, who works out of Downing Street, was arrested on the same grounds.

None has been charged, and both deny any wrongdoing.

Mr Blair was first interviewed last December following revelations that four leading businessmen he nominated for peerages had given millions of pounds in "secret'' loans to Labour Party's election fund in 2005.

All four nominations were then blocked by the committee which vets appointments to the House of Lords, and police launched an investigation into allegations that Labour was trading honours for cash in breach of the 1925 Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act.

On Thursday, Scotland Yard emphasised that Mr Blair was interviewed as a witness to clarify certain things. Mr Blair's official spokesman said he was not questioned under "caution'' and was not accompanied by a lawyer implying that he was not being treated as an accused.