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The Conservative Party’s deputy chairman, the world’s leading collector of VCs, put up £75,000 of a £120,000 reward to recover the medals, awarded to 12 of New Zealand’s most highly decorated war heroes, which were stolen from the national Army Museum in Waiouro, North Island.

The payment does not include any immunity from prosecution for those involved in the crime.

Also included in the haul were two George Crosses, an Albert Medal and the only double VC awarded to a combat soldier: to Capt Charles Upham for heroism in campaigns in Africa and Crete during the Second World War before he was captured and imprisoned in Colditz Castle.

The medals were returned in mint condition to Lord Ashcroft’s office, with a lawyer acting as a go-between.

Explaining his decision, Lord Ashcroft said: “It really needed a radical move to precipitate the return of the medals. My worry was that they might have been destroyed, buried or lost forever.

“I believe it was important that there was a serious incentive to avoid that happening.”

He added: “The police are now free to pursue their inquiries. If they catch and convict those who took the medals, who is the loser in the financial takes? Myself. And I don’t care.”

• A selection of 50 of Lord Ashcroft’s own collection of 154 VCs will be exhibited at Spink in London from April 16-25.