An Iranian-connected businessman at the centre of a dispute splitting the Conservatives' Middle East Council reportedly paid for access to Prince Charles.
Mohamed Amersi gave £15,000 ($20,847) a year to become a member of an elite club run by Ben Elliot, the nephew of the prince’s second wife Camilla, who is also chairman of the Conservative Party.
The benefits of belonging to the highest level of Mr Elliot’s 'Quintessentially' concierge service meant that Mr Amersi was invited to an intimate dinner with Prince Charles at a stately home in Scotland, the Sunday Times reported.
The British businessman, who has family ties in Iran and India, subsequently donated more than £1.2 million to the prince’s charities.
He also contributed £750,000 to the Conservative Party, giving him access to government ministers.
Following a dinner with Boris Johnson before he became prime minister, Mr Amersi said it was agreed he should begin a new Conservative group to develop connections with the Middle East.
He argued there was a vacuum in Tory interests after the Conservative Middle East Council (CMEC), founded in 1980, had in 2019 ended formal affiliation with the party to allow it to seek wider funding
With the Middle East being an important geopolitical region for the UK, Mr Amersi went on to register a private company called Conservative Friends of the Middle East and North Africa (COMENA).
In a report last month The Financial Times said that former prime minister Theresa May, MPs Mark Garner and Sir Hugo Swire, and Sir Eddie Lister, a former adviser to Mr Johnson, agreed to positions on COMENA. Mrs May declined to comment, the other MPs did not respond to requests for comment and Sir Eddie said he would only take the position if the Conservative Party granted COMENA affiliation. That decision has yet to be taken by the party.
Meanwhile, CMEC has continued its work, with MP delegations recently having audiences with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abdel Fattah El Sisi, the Egyptian president.
However, Mr Amersi took legal action against CMEC’s chairwoman, former Tory MP Charlotte Leslie, alleging defamation in memos she sent to Sir Nicholas Soames, CMEC's honorary chairman and grandson to Sir Winston Churchill, and a close friend of Prince Charles.
The memos allegedly contained allegations about Mr Amersi’s Iranian connections, his attempts to get Conservative Party affiliation for COMENA and reference to Russian interests.
Sir Nicholas passed the memos on to Mr Elliott — the Conservative Party chairman and Prince Charles’ nephew — in early January.
On January 18, according to the Financial Times, Mr Amersi donated £50,000 to the party.
Mr Amersi also obtained copies of the memos and has now taken legal action against Ms Leslie and Sir Nicholas.
In a letter to the Financial Times following its report, Mr Amersi wrote: “COMENA is designed to promote better relationships with the party and its parliamentarians with the Middle East and North Africa region. The memos you reference are designed to discredit me by those with interests in maintaining the current but, since early 2019, non-party-affiliated Middle East-focused group, and are subject to High Court proceedings.”
Now the Sunday Times has shown Mr Amersi’s links to Prince Charles and the explicit use of cash to buy access, revealed through leaked emails and an “aristocratic whistle-blower”.
Mr Amersi voiced his frustration to the newspaper, stating that despite contributing £750,000 to the Conservative Party, “nobody has picked up the phone and said, ‘We are really sorry to see you go through this,’” in reference to the memos and other issues.
The National has contacted Sir Nicholas and Ms Leslie for comment. In a previous comment to the FT, Ms Leslie, also speaking for Sir Nicholas, said: “We have done nothing wrong.”