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Labour demands to know what Russian oligarch was getting in return for bankrolling one in ten Conservative MPs

Chair of the Labour Party Anneliese Dodds has today written to her Conservative opposite number asking him to explain why one in ten of his party’s MPs were getting cash from an oligarch accused of corruption at the heart of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The BBC has revealed that 34 Conservative MPs received some £700,000 from businesses owned by the Russian businessman Viktor Fedotov. The recent ‘Pandora Papers’ scandal suggested that Fedotov secretly benefitted from an alleged $4bn fraud in Putin’s Russia. The state-owned oil and gas company gave hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to a firm called VNIIST, but leaked audit reports in 2008 suggest the work was not carried out and instead the money was apparently siphoned off. The ‘Pandora Papers’ showed Fedotov to have held a stake in VNIIST, hidden behind a complex web of offshore structures.

In the UK, Fedotov jointly owns Aquind with fellow oligarch Alexander Temerko. Temerko is a Conservative Party activist and avowedly personal friend of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and he too has given £700,000 to the party in recent years. Aquind is in the process of bidding to build an undersea power connector between Portsmouth and Normandy, which the Government has deemed to be a “nationally significant infrastructure project”. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is due to decide whether to appoint Aquind to the project in just 16 days’ time. Three separate Conservative Ministers have already had to recuse themselves from making the decision because of personal links to Aquind.

In her letter to Oliver Dowden, Anneliese Dodds links the secrecy over Fedotov’s money to that over the Conservatives’ £50k-a-head Leader’s Group and its £250k-a-head Advisory Group, both of which offer donors access to senior ministers.

The Conservatives have refused to say who is on each group, when they meet and what they discuss. In her letter, Dodds asks Dowden: “Why can’t you level with the public and tell us just what it is that people get for handing over huge sums of money to your party?”

The letter comes after Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said that the disclosures were the ‘final nail in the coffin’ for AQUIND yesterday. The City MP recently submitted a 6,200 signature petition to Parliament as part of a string of actions to oppose the project.

Labour Party Chair Anneliese Dodds, said:

“It is extraordinary that a company co-owned by an oligarch allegedly linked to a huge corruption scandal in Putin’s Russia is bankrolling one in ten Tory MPs. And in two weeks’ time, the Conservative Government is going to decide whether to give this man’s company the right to build infrastructure vital to our national security.

“We have no idea what his money is buying. Just as we have no idea what the members of the so-called ‘Leader’s Group’ and ‘Advisory Board’ are getting for the tens of thousands they hand over in cash to the Conservative Party.

“If the accusations of corruption are correct, the Tories should hand this money back. And they should tell us who is giving the party money and what they’re getting in return. Otherwise it’s clear there’s one rule for senior Conservatives and another for everyone else.”

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said:

“The Panorama investigation has revealed the staggering alleged corruption of AQUIND owners and raises further suspicion about their cosy relationships with government.

“There are now serious questions to answer about how AQUIND owners have made their money and whether we can trust them to build nationally significant infrastructure. Perhaps most concerningly, we have no clarity on what Tory MPs promised them before lining their pockets and accepting their cash.

“One thing is clear: Ministers must immediately stop AQUIND, once and for all. Any pretence that this Tory Government is able to make an impartial decision is now laughable”.