Dirty money?

“Tories take Putin’s pal £50,000… on the day Theresa May blamed Russia for Skripal poisoning”

… On the very day Mrs May was firmly pointing a finger at Vladimir Putin over the Salisbury murder bid, a former Kremlin aide’s wife ploughed the cash into the Tory party’s coffers.

And Lubov Chernukhin gave a further £50,000 to the Conservatives as police investigated the assassination attempt on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia – bringing the total donated in the two weeks after the poisoning to £100,000.

Lubov’s husband Vladimir is Putin’s former deputy finance minister.

Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable branded the payment “sheer hypocrisy”.

He said: “The Conservatives should have returned the money straightaway.

The very least they can do is return this now.”

Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery added: “It smacks of hypocrisy for Theresa May to accept tens of ­thousands of pounds from a donor with links to Putin’s regime on the same day she denounced the Kremlin over the Salisbury attack.

“The Tories need to come clean with the public about what checks they have made on the wealth amassed by their super-rich donors.”

It comes after we revealed two Tory peers – Lord Hague and Lord Barker – are both earning thousands of pounds a year from firms slammed by MPs over links to the Kremlin.

Lubov’s gift was on March 12, according to official records seen by the Mirror.

… When she took office in July 2016, the PM said it would not be “business as usual” with Russian donors amid growing tensions between Moscow and the West. But her party has since received more than £800,000 from Russian-linked supporters.

Banker Lubov alone has donated more than £600,000 since 2010.

It is understood she has lived here for many years and is a British citizen. There is no suggestion she has no right to donate to the Tory party. …”


George Osborne courts controversy – cash for brand placement allegations

“Former Chancellor George Osborne was embroiled in a row on Thursday over claims that London’s Evening Standard promised ‘money-can’t-buy’ coverage to big businesses for £3million.

The newspaper faced accusations it had effectively sold positive news coverage to brands including Google and the controversial taxi app Uber, in return for sponsorship of a planned campaign.

The two were among six firms to each pay £500,000 to be part of the paper’s ‘London 2020’ project which will highlight issues including air pollution and housing.

The Evening Standard said it had agreed partnerships to support its campaign but denied the deals threatened its editorial integrity and independence. It said any commercial content would be ‘clearly identifiable’.

Mr Osborne became the newspaper’s editor last year and was said to have directed the London 2020 project, pitched to potential commercial sponsors as offering ‘money-can’t-buy’ coverage.

A sales presentation to businesses said: ‘We expect every campaign to generate numerous news stories, comment pieces and high-profile backers.’

Details of the deal were revealed on the news website open-Democracy, which claimed the Standard offered ‘favourable’ editorial comment and news coverage as part of its sales presentation. …

Blurring the line between journalism and advertising, or allowing commercial pressures to influence editorial content is generally seen as a breach of Britain’s robust tradition of Press freedom and independence.

Mr Osborne’s appointment as editor attracted criticism after it emerged that he had a £650,000-a-year part-time advisory job with City firm BlackRock, which holds a £500million stake in Uber.

The Cameron-Osborne government also came under fire for its close links to Uber. Black cab drivers brought Westminster to a standstill in a protest over claims that former prime minister David Cameron and Mr Osborne told aides to lobby against a planned crackdown on the online firm in 2015.

Rachel Whetstone – a friend of Mr Cameron who is married to his former strategist Steve Hilton – quit her job as Uber’s policy chief as it emerged the information watchdog had begun an investigation into the affair. Critics had raised concerns about the extent of her influence over the Cameron government, both in her role at Uber and in her previous job at Google. …

The Evening Standard was owned by the Daily Mail’s parent company but was sold to Russian-born businessman Alexander Lebedev and his son Evgeny in 2009. …”


Buying votes – Tories in the lead

The Conservative Party accepted £4.7 million of donations in the first three months of 2018, new data shows.

Theresa May’s party received more than three times as much as Labour between January 1 and March 31.

Labour accepted £1.49 million in donations.

The Liberal Democrats received £564,135 and the Green Party just £1,800.

This is £2.4 million less than what was accepted during the same period last year (£9.3 million). …”


The new sleazy politics: “shadow lobbying”

A new one to add to cash for questions, conflicts of interest, payments in kind and direct lobbying:

“The disclosure that Donald Trump’s legal fixer Michael Cohen was quietly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to advise corporations highlights the inability of US laws to prevent secretive “shadow lobbying”, analysts said.

Companies such as the telecoms giant AT&T and Novartis, a major pharmaceuticals firm, confirmed they paid Cohen, the president’s personal attorney, large sums last year in return for what they describe as guidance on navigating the new administration. …”


“GRUBBY CORRUPTION’ Tax officials refused to investigate money laundering at telecoms company ‘because they donated cash to the Tories’ “

“TAX officials are under fire after it emerged they refused to investigate a company for money laundering – saying the firm was a massive Tory donor.

HMRC was asked by French authorities to raid the offices of telecoms firm Lycamobile, but turned down the request.

BuzzFeed revealed that in an email to the French officials, a senior civil servant said: “It is of note that they are the biggest corporate donor to the Conservative party led by Prime Minister Theresa May and donated 1.25m Euros to the Prince Charles Trust in 2012.”

HMRC has admitted the reference to Lycamobile’s political links was a mistake – but insisted that was not the reason they refused to probe the firm.

Furious MPs accused the tax authorities of “grubby corruption” and demanded an explanation from Philip Hammond.

Prosecutors in France launched an investigation into claims that Lycamobile uses its phone business to launder money two years ago.

They asked HMRC to help out by raiding the company’s offices in London, but the British officials refused in an email sent in March last year.

The email included the information about the links between Lycamobile and the Tories – who have now stopped accepting donations from the company.

Asked about the letter, HMRC initially denied it was authentic, saying: “This is the United Kingdom for God’s sake, not some third world banana republic where the organs of state are in hock to some sort of kleptocracy.”

But they later admitted it was real and said it was “regrettable” that the line was included.

A spokesman told The Sun today: “HMRC always investigates suspected rule breaking professionally and objectively and is never influenced by political considerations.”

HMRC added that the reason the request to raid Lycamobile was refused was that French officials didn’t provide enough information.

Labour MP Wes Streeting blasted the revelations today, saying: “This sort of grubby corruption cannot be tolerated.”


“Cambridge Analytica files spell out election tactics” – one of which was “persuade people NOT to vote”

The files were released by the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

They detail some of the work undertaken by Cambridge Analytica and companies it has been linked with, including SCL Group, Global Science Research and Aggregate IQ.

“In one document, SCL said that encouraging people “not to vote” might be more effective than trying to motivate swing voters.

Describing its work in a Nigerian election, SCL Global said it had advised that “rather than trying to motivate swing voters to vote for our clients, a more effective strategy might be to persuade opposition voters not to vote at all”.

It said this had been achieved by “organising anti-election rallies on the day of polling in opposition strongholds” and using “local religious figures to maximise their appeal especially among the spiritual, rural communities”.

It boasted of devising a political graffiti campaign to create a youth “movement” in Trinidad and Tobago and of disseminating “campaign messages that, whilst ostensibly coming from the youth, were unattributable to any specific party”. It said as a result “a united youth movement was created”.
In Latvia, it said it had recognised that “unspoken ethnic tensions” were “at the heart of the election”.

“The locals secretly blamed the Russians for stealing their jobs… armed with this knowledge, SCL was able to reflect these real issues in its client’s messaging,” the document said.

The files spell out how SCL helped the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office “in strategic planning to counter violent jihadism” in Pakistan.

“I wouldn’t only recommend them, I’d work with them again in an instant,” wrote an official, whose name has been redacted.”