The Conservative Party made numerous payments last year to a company owned by its chairman, it can be revealed.
Gabriel Pogrund, Henry Zeffman www.thetimes.co.uk
Ben Elliot, who was appointed by Boris Johnson to be co-chairman of the Conservatives in 2019 after spending years introducing wealthy donors to the party, oversaw the payment of party funds to his own firm, Hod Hill, between April and August last year.
The Conservatives are refusing to say how much was paid to Hod Hill, a small and unaudited company owned by Elliot, which has no public profile but assets of £2.4 million. It said the payments funded “administrative support” to Elliot, 45, in his role as chairman.
It is understood that the money paid for Elliot’s long-term business partner and co-director at Hod Hill, Jakob Widecki, and one of its employees, to work with him at party headquarters.
Widecki, 33, an Austrian citizen, owns shares in the company, and has also worked for Elliot’s other business, a concierge service for the ultra-rich, for most of the past decade.
The party could not explain why it had not paid Widecki and the other staff members directly, as opposed to giving the money to Hod Hill. It is unclear why the arrangement started or ended.
A party spokesman said: “Neither Ben Elliot nor Hod Hill have benefited financially from their relationship with the Conservative Party directly or indirectly.” It is understood that the two have moved to a separate financial arrangement.
The revelations will add to growing pressure on Elliot over the apparent overlap between his business activities and his role in public life and the party.
He is already facing claims he sold access to his uncle, the Prince of Wales, via Quintessentially, his concierge service. The Tory donor Mohamed Amersi was flown to meet Charles at Dumfries House after paying £15,000 a year to be a member of Quintessentially’s “elite” tier.
It has also emerged that Elliot oversees an elite “advisory council” of donor to the Tories, who for giving £250,000 receive access to the prime minister.
It can also be revealed that the Tories accepted £100,000 from Amersi, a paying client of Quintessentially, in exchange for a breakfast with Boris Johnson.
Elliot has repeatedly declined to say how Hod Hill has made its money. There is no suggestion of illegality or that Elliot has broken any rules.
Amersi bought his breakfast with Johnson for £99,500 in an auction at the Carlton dinner fundraising event in November 2019. The donation was reported to the Electoral Commission in January last year, but the breakfast has not taken place.
Last night Lord Leigh, the senior treasurer of the Conservatives, said: “Anyone who supports any party of any colour and is not a paid MP or full-time official has other interests, that’s true of any other party, it always has been, it always will be, there’s nothing wrong with that.
“The fact is you have a chairman with other interests which are also declared. It is all transparent and open. We need to thank people who help political parties voluntarily because without them we would have a state system, which nobody would enjoy.”
A party spokesman said: “Donations are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission.”