Ministers forced to answer string of questions about Tory donors’ alleged links to corruption
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The Conservative party conference was on Monday engulfed in a growing scandal over Tory donors and their alleged links to corruption, with Boris Johnson facing calls to hand back cash and submit the party to an investigation.
The prime minister and his ministers were forced to answer a string of questions about separate donations given by two businessmen – Mohamed Amersi and Viktor Fedotov – following revelations in the Pandora papers unearthed by the Guardian and BBC Panorama.
Mohamed Amersi, a major donor who funded Johnson’s campaign to become prime minister, advised on the structure of a telecoms deal that was later found to be a $220m (£162m) bribe for the daughter of the then president of Uzbekistan. His lawyers strongly denied any wrongdoing on his part and said any suggestion he “knowingly” facilitated corrupt payments was false. His lawyers added that all his donations were derived from work done for legitimate clients and any suggestion they were the product of improper funds was false.
The wealth of Lubov Chernukhin, who has donated £2.1m to the Tories since 2012, appears to flow in part from the corporate structures of her husband, Vladimir, a former Russian state banker and a finance minister under Vladimir Putin. The files also reveal the extent to which the couple rely on a vast offshore network of companies to fund their lifestyle. Their lawyers denied Lubov Chernukhin’s donations had been funded improperly or influenced by anyone else.
Viktor Fedotov, a Russian-born oil tycoon, whose firm has made huge donations to the Conservative party, secretly co-owned a company once accused of participating in a massive corruption scheme. Fedotov’s majority-owned UK company, Aquind, and his business partner, have donated more than £1.2m to the Conservatives. Lawyers for Fedotov and Aquind denied all accusations of fraud and said accusations of corruption aimed at his Russian firm were “completely false”. Lawyers for Aquind stressed that Fedotov did not personally donate to the Conservative party, was not involved in the management of the company and had “no influence” over its donations. Fedotov’s lawyers said he “has never had any interest in British politics and has operated in an open and transparent manner throughout the course of his career”.