BBC: Ashcroft info could help Independent's libel case

Panorama reported last night that information it has uncovered about the financial dealings of Lord Ashcroft could prove useful to The Independent in its libel battle with the billionaire Peer.

The BBC's long-awaited investigation into Ashcroft last night alleged that he had been less than transparent about his financial dealings in the Turks and Caicos islands.

Ashcroft is suing The Independent over articles published on 19 and 20 November 2009.

Legal papers lodged in early 2010 revealed that Ashroft was seeking damages of up to £50,000 about a front page story and a second follow-up story.

Panorama reporter Declan Lawn said on the programme, Secrets of the Tory Billionaire, last night: "The information we've uncovered could prove to be very useful to The Independent because it will provide new evidence in the paper's libel battle with Lord Ashcroft."

A spokesman for Lord Ashcroft told The Independent yesterday: "No statement is being made because the BBC has not had the decency to tell Lord Ashcroft what is in this programme. They have been at this for two and a half years and made so many false starts on the way, who knows what they are going to do?"

The BBC was planning to broadcast a documentary about the financial affairs of Ashcroft in September 2010 which was pulled just hours before transmission following a response to a question made earlier in the day about a share transfer, the BBC said at the time. "Lord Ashcroft's millions" was broadcast the following month.

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