Millionaire Conservative Party donor ordered to pay costs in Middle East case

Mohamed Amersi to remunerate 65% of former Conservative MP Charlotte Leslie's legal bills

Mohamed Amersi addresses the One Young World Summit at the Methodist Hall in London in October 2019. Facundo Arrizabalaga / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock
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A millionaire Tory party donor is facing a substantial legal bill after an attempted court action against the Conservative Middle East Council director.

Mohamed Amersi’s litigation against former Tory MP Charlotte Leslie hit a roadblock today after it failed to go to trial over procedural issues.

The High Court heard that the entrepreneur with links to Iran had undertaken legal procedures that amounted to “unreasonable behaviour”.

Mr Amersi, 61, who sat smartly dressed a few metres from Ms Leslie, 43, listened impassively as Mrs Justice Amanda Tipples ordered him to pay 65 per cent of the defendant’s legal costs in bringing the case to trial.

The judge told the claimant that he had tried “to have his cake and eat it” in bringing the data protection action to the Royal Courts of Justice.

Mr Amersi’s case stems from a memorandum from Ms Leslie after she examined his background and sent it to a handful of senior figures.

In his skeleton argument, which the judge allowed to be reported, he stated that in December 2020, Ms Leslie started collecting evidence on “his background, his business dealings and his family, by searching online and by speaking to her contacts".

The former MP then compiled a memorandum and briefing documents from the information that she had gathered before sending it to “various members of the diplomatic, national security and political communities”.

Mr Amersi is also planning to sue Ms Leslie for libel over the documents.

Among the people to which she passed the document in January this year was Ben Elliot, the Conservative Party chairman.

Mr Amersi, who has donated £1.2 million ($1.6m) to the Conservatives, became aware of the memo and believed Ms Leslie “was engaged in a campaign to damage his reputation in the eyes of those to whom it was most important to him", his argument stated.

She strongly contests the allegations.

The memorandum was compiled after Mr Amersi set up Conservative Friends of the Middle East and North Africa, regarded as a potential rival to CMEC.

Mr Amersi claims that during a dinner with Boris Johnson before he became prime minister, it was agreed that he should begin a new Conservative group to develop regional connections.

But the court document accused Ms Leslie of trying to “undermine his attempts to set up Comena through the widespread disclosure of misleading information about him”.

The very top of the British establishment has been dragged into the controversy, with Prince Charles, who entertained Mr Amersi, drawn into questions over party funding, along with former prime minister Theresa May.

The dispute, which has led to questions over “cash for access” and behind-the-scenes deals allegedly shaped by Mr Elliot, originates in the Tories' interests in the Middle East.

Much of the court case is based on a data access request made by Mr Amersi under the Data Protection Act.

But in a day of legal argument, the court heard his legal team had undertaken a Part 8 claim, where witness statements are agreed between the parties, rather than a Part 7 Claim in which they are not and witnesses are cross-examined.

“If the claimant had taken the trouble to follow the correct procedures it would be very likely that he would not be in the situation he faces today,” Ms Tipples said.

“Costs have been inevitably wasted."

Pepin Aslett, Ms Leslie’s barrister, said the claimant's conduct in the manner “in which they brought these proceedings amounts to unreasonable behaviour”.

It is unclear how much Mr Amersi will now have to pay in costs but bringing a case to the High Court comes to a considerable amount.

The controversy over Conservative Party funding will take centre stage in the court next spring, with Ms Leslie and Mr Amersi expected to give evidence under the Part 7 procedure.

Updated: November 24, 2021, 6:04 PM