United Kingdom

Tory donor in 'cash for access' row accused of taking $4million from firm controlled by Putin ally

The Tories are facing more questions over a 'cash for access' row today as a major donor was accused of receiving $4million from a firm he knew was controlled by one of Vladimir Putin's ministers.

Telecoms tycoon Mohamed Amersi, who has given the Conservatives £750,000 in the past four years, received the seven-figure payment in 2005 for work carried out for Luxembourg company First National Holding when it took over a Russian firm.

The following year a Swiss tribunal ruled that First National Holding was one of a number of firms controlled by Leonid Reiman, who at the time was Russian telecoms minister.

Mr Amersi has said that he did not know Reiman ran the Luxembourg budsiness at the time, believing it to be owned by a Danish lawyer. But a British expert in telecoms today told the Financial Times that this is incorrect.

James Hatt told the paper he met Amersi in 2000 in New York, saying: 'Mohamed understood a lot about Russian telecom. If we're going to discuss British politics, we're not going to spend a lot of time discussing who the prime minister is. We know who the prime minister is. 

'And in the same way, that meeting with Mohamed to discuss telecoms in St Petersburg — you're not going to spend a lot of time talking about whether or not Leonid owns First National Holding. Because you know he does.'

Kenyan-born businessman Mr Amersi is embroiled in a row over accss to senior ministers - and the Prince of Wales - via Quintessentially, a 'luxury lifestyle management service' run by Tory co-chairman Ben Elliot. 

It was claimed at the weekend that Mr Elliot had set up an exclusive club for the biggest Tory donors to meet the Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak. 

Labour chairwoman Anneliese Dodds last night wrote to Tory counterpart Amanda Milling demanding the party 'come clean' about the level of access afforded to financial backers as part of the so-called 'advisory group'.

It has also been revealed that Mr Amersi donated £10,000 each to four hopefuls in the 2019 Tory leadership election: Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt and Rory Stewart.

Telecoms tycoon Mohamed Amersi, who has given the Conservatives £750,000 in the past four years, received the seven-figure payment in 2005 for work carried out on a Luxembourg company's takeover of a Russian firm.

The following year a Swiss tribunal ruled that First National Holding, which paid him, was one of a number of firms controlled by Leonid Reiman (left), who at the time was Russian telecoms minister.

It has also been revealed that Mr Amersi donated £10,000 each to four hopefuls in the 2019 Tory leadership election: Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt and Rory Stewart.

Mr Amersi denied Mr Hutt's claim today, telling the FT: 'I cannot speculate on what Mr Hatt may have known at the time but, for my part, it is untrue that I was aware of Mr Reiman's concealed ownership of First National Holding, so I could not have possibly engaged in discussions about this.'

Mr Amersi was quoted by the paper as saying the Tory access club was 'like the very elite Quintessentially clients membership: one needs to cough up £250,000 per annum or be a friend of Ben'.

The name was a reference to Conservative Party co-chairman Mr Elliot.

Following the report, the Tories said an advisory board meets occasionally and receives political updates.

But in her letter last night, Ms Dodds demanded information be made available about its purpose and who it has benefitted.

'It is in the public interest for you to clarify the workings of this so-called 'advisory board' and Mr Elliot's role in offering a powerful elite exclusive access to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor - purely because of their status as Tory party donors,' she wrote.

She called for a full list of all donors who have paid to be members of the board to be published, alongside the full complement of Government ministers who have attended any meetings or engagements with members of the board, including dates and times.

Ms Dodds added: 'The Conservative Party needs to come clean on what access this group had, what they used that access to lobby for, and why it appears that there is one rule for high-ranking Conservatives and another rule for everyone else.

'The way that Boris Johnson and his friends operate seems to be not about what is right but what they can get away with, blurring the boundaries between public and private life.

'There are now serious questions for the Conservative Party to answer about their fundraising techniques.'

 Prince Charles was dragged into the 'cash for access' row yesterday after Mr Elliot was accused of arranging a private dinner between the heir to the throne - his uncle by marriage - and Mr Amersi.

The men are said to have had an 'intimate dinner' at Dumfries House in Scotland organised via Quintessentially, to which Mr Amersi had paid an annual £15,000 fee as an 'elite' member.

Ben Elliot (right), 45, introduced super-rich clients from his company Quintessentially to the Prince of Wales (left)

In the wake of the dinner, the 61-year-old businessman provided more than £1.2million to the prince's charities and was given access to him. 

Yesterday Mr Elliot, 45, was accused by Mr Amersi of facilitating 'access capitalism' and of providing access to a senior royal.

But the Tory co-chairman insisted there was no conflict of interest and the meeting between Charles and Mr Amersi had been 'entirely about helping to raise money for charity'.

Sources at the royal household expressed disappointment that the Prince of Wales had been dragged into a 'political' row when all his efforts were 'focussed on fundraising for charity'. 

Telecoms millionaire Mohamed Amersi, 61, paid £15,000 a year to be an elite member of the luxury concierge business

A Clarence House source insisted the prince was grateful for all the support Mr Elliot had provided and made clear there was no personal financial benefit. 

A No 10 source insisted no special access had been given other than was normal for party donors. 

A friend of the Prime Minister praised how Mr Elliot had modernised the party structure and its finances which had record donations thanks to his efforts.

A friend of Mr Elliot said: 'Ben is a buccaneer but no one ever doubts he is a straight player. He makes no apologies for raising money for charities he believes in, which includes the Prince of Wales's, and is adamant that there is no conflict of interest with his charity and political work which he keeps separate.'

Emails revealed by the Sunday Times yesterday revealed the access Mr Elliot obtained to his uncle for Mr Amersi. 

Elliot appealed for donations for friend and Tory minister Zac Goldsmith (pictured) using his royal conections

In 2013 the firm arranged for him to fly to meet the heir to the throne over dinner at Dumfries House, a stately home in Ayrshire that the prince helped save.

He offered a chauffeur and private jet and sent a timetable for a guided tour of the mansion before his intimate meal with 'HRH'. Mr Amersi has since donated more than £1.2million to the prince's charities and has become a trustee of the Prince's Trust International and a board member of Charles's Mosaic Network initiative.

A message obtained by the newspaper showed that Mr Elliot told Mr Amersi 'well done' when he heard about his first donation.

In a leaked email from 2015, he allegedly told the British businessman that the prince 'spoke highly of you' before asking for a donation to the mayoral campaign of his friend Zac Goldsmith.

Mr Amersi told the Sunday Times he would never have met the heir to the throne if he had not signed up to the 'very top tier' of Mr Elliot's luxury service. He said his membership had opened doors to the Establishment, including 'Clarence House, St James's Palace, Buckingham Palace, Dumfries House'.

Mr Amersi described this arrangement as 'access capitalism'. He added: 'You get access, you get invitations, you get privileged relationships if you are part of the set-up, and where you are financially making a contribution to be a part of that set-up. Absolutely.' Charles has attended several events hosted by the Quintessentially Foundation, the firm's charitable arm, including one at Clarence House.

Labour chairman Anneliese Dodds said: 'It cannot be right that Ben Elliot is offering a select group of elite donors privileged access to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.

'And if the inducements to donate to the Conservative Party or become a client of Quintessentially include professing to offer access to the Royal Family then that is totally unacceptable.'

But a spokesman for Mr Elliot said: 'Mr Elliot assisted Mr Amersi in meeting the Prince of Wales because he wanted to support the prince's charitable work, and Mr Elliot is proud that led to large donations from Mr Amersi to good causes.'

Football news:

Nuno surprised Chelsea with the pressure and Kane's new position. Silva saved from problems, and Tuchel's rearrangements nailed Tottenham
Kante has a unique ability to change the course of a match. With him, you get everything you need in the center of the field. Tuchel about the Chelsea midfielder
Neymar on 2:1 with Lyon: It's hard to win back, you need to run twice as much. PSG sacrificed themselves
Lineker on Noble's exit on a penalty kick: An incomprehensible decision. The same thing happened with England at the Euro
Kier suffered a muscle injury. He was replaced in the match with Juve in the 1st half
Manchester United, losing in the course of the Premier League matches, has scored 35 points since the beginning of last season. Liverpool has 20 points
Messi started poorly at PSG: 0 goals and 0 assists in 3 matches. It seems that the replacement in the game with Lyon offended him