BP boss Lord Browne sensationally quit yesterday after losing a bitter legal battle with his rent boy lover.
The disgraced peer, one of the country’s most successful businessmen, could now face perjury charges after admitting he lied in court over the affair.
Lord Browne, a close friend of Tony Blair, claimed he met Canadian Jeff Chevalier, who is in his 30s, by chance while exercising in a London park.
But the Daily Express can reveal that Lord Browne picked him out after surfing a sordid gay website called Suited And Booted. His error of judgment led to the degrading end of a glittering career which had seen Lord Browne turn the struggling oil giant into the most successful British company of the past decade.
The acrimonious breakdown of his four-year relationship with Chevalier also cost Lord Browne £15.5million in cash and shares which he gave up by resigning.
Recriminations from the case, fought out behind closed doors in the High Court, go right to the heart of Tony Blair’s Government. Lord Browne, 59, is alleged to have talked to his lover about conversations he had with senior Labour figures including the Prime Minister and Gordon Brown. Chevalier claims he became privy to many of Lord Browne’s secrets, including those of Mr Blair, the Chancellor and EU Commissioner Peter Mandelson.
Lord Browne, a regular visitor to Downing Street, is said to have shared much of what went on at No10 with his lover. The extent of Chevalier’s knowledge of the inner workings of Labour is said to have included the Prime Minister discussing “life after Government and aspects of his own character”.
It was claimed that Lord Browne, who was knighted in 1998 and made a life peer by the Prime Minister in 2001, invited Chevalier to dinner with Peter Mandelson and his gay Brazilian boyfriend Reinaldo.
The BP chief executive also allegedly discussed confidential business matters with Chevalier and misused company funds to support him.
During their relationship, Chevalier adopted his lover’s jet-set lifestyle after Lord Browne lavished gifts and “substantial payments” on him.
It is alleged that the Cambridge-educated peer helped Chevalier to secure a visa to enable him to remain in Britain.
Offering a tantalising glimpse of the jet-set lifestyle he enjoyed, Chevalier in his court papers recounts a shopping trip in Venice.
“Realising that my clothing was not formal enough for being in public with him, [Lord Browne] took me to the Venice Prada shop to buy me more formal wear.
“He would continue to buy me an array of clothing so that I could be presentable once he began to introduce me to his friends and acquaintances.”
Announcing his resignation, Lord Browne said: “In my 41 years with BP I have kept my private life separate from my business life. I have always regarded my sexuality as a personal matter, to be kept private.” The affair was revealed after it came to an end in 2006. Chevalier claimed he was “having to adjust to a drastically reduced lifestyle”.
He wrote to his former lover saying he was facing hunger and homelessness and asking for “some assistance”.
A judge described his approach as a “thinly-veiled threat”. When no money was forthcoming, Chevalier approached a newspaper to “spill the beans”.
This led to a court battle as the BP boss went all the way to the House of Lords in an attempt to silence him.
Lord Browne admitted he had lied to the court over the circumstances in which he met his gay lover. A judge yesterday ordered that Lord Browne did not have to reveal how he had met Chevalier. But the Daily Express can reveal he picked his lover from the gay website Suited And Booted.
The website boasts of being “London’s premier escort agency” and features dozens of semi-clad and naked models offering their services.
Last night a close friend of Lord Browne said the peer had been embarrassed about revealing the truth of how he met Chevalier and added that the couple had agreed they would never reveal the circumstances.
The friend said: “He felt ashamed and humiliated at the way he had come to know Chevalier and he did not want the world to know they had met on a gay website. When it came to the court hearing, Lord Browne stuck to that version but Chevalier chose not to.
“Lord Browne immediately felt guilty, knowing that he had not been honest. It was gnawing away at him and two weeks later he retracted his statement because he felt it was wrong to lie to a court.”
Lord Browne was forced to make a humiliating apology after acknowledging that he had not been truthful. He said yesterday: “My initial witness statements contained an untruthful account about how I first met Jeff. This account, prompted by my embarrassment and shock at the revelations, is a matter of deep regret.
“It was retracted and corrected. I have apologised unreservedly and do so again today.” But, in his judgment, Mr Justice Eady said the peer had used his status to try to convince the court his version of events was true.
The judge said Lord Browne had referred to “the honours he has received under the present Government when asking the court to prefer his account of what took place.”
The judge said of Chevalier: “A wholesale attack was being made on his credibility. It was said that he was a liar, unstable and adversely affected by dependence on alcohol and illegal drugs.”
It was claimed the allegation was largely based on Lord Browne’s butler saying his “wine stocks were diminishing”. Medical records later showed that the alcohol abuse claims were unfounded.
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