Call for Tory investigation into foreign-linked donation

Labour Party calling for investigation into donation linked to Conservative Party treasurer Sir Ehud Sheleg

Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds has called for the Conservatives to launch an 'immediate investigation' into the donation. Reuters
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The UK's Labour Party has raised questions about whether the Conservative Party accepted an “illegal” donation linked to a foreign citizen.

Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds has called for the Conservatives to launch an “immediate investigation” into the donation.

The minister has written to her Tory counterpart Oliver Dowden regarding the 2018 donation in the name of former Conservative Party treasurer Sir Ehud Sheleg.

The New York Times said it had reviewed documents linked to the donation, which was recorded as £450,000 by the party, and said it originated in a Russian account belonging to Sir Ehud’s father-in-law, Sergei Kopytov.

Ms Dodds, raising a point of order in the House of Commons, said: “There are genuine questions to answer about whether a donation from Sir Ehud to the Conservative Party complied with UK law, given that it appeared to have originated from Sir Ehud’s father-in-law, Sergei Kopytov, a former senior pro-Kremlin politician in Ukraine and apparent owner of significant assets in Crimea.”

She went on to ask a series of questions, including: “Did the bank transfer at issue in The New York Times article originate from a Russian bank?”

The New York Times report said Barclays bank, in an alert sent to the National Crime Agency in 2021, identified with “considerable certainty” that Mr Kopytov was the “true source of the donation”.

Sir Ehud’s lawyer said this is not the case, The New York Times said.

Donations to political parties from those not on the UK electoral register are not allowed.

Labour chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said 'there are genuine questions to answer about whether a donation from Sir Ehud to the Conservative Party complied with UK law'. Getty Images

“If the Conservatives have accepted an illegal donation, the public deserves to know. The Conservative Party chair must act swiftly to set the record straight,” said Ms Dodds in a statement.

“This report suggests that your party has accepted a donation from a foreign citizen who was not registered to vote in this country.

“If true, that donation would be illegal, yet a Conservative Party spokesman is quoted as saying ‘all donations comply with the law’. The public deserves to know whether this is true.”

Following a list of questions to Mr Dowden, she asked: “Will you therefore launch an immediate investigation into the case raised by The New York Times and commit to rooting out any remaining links between the Conservative Party and the Putin regime?”

The New York Times reported that Mr Kopytov said in a statement provided by Sir Ehud’s lawyer that he was a Ukrainian citizen and had not donated to any British political party — and that any donations made by his son-in-law “have nothing to do with me”.

Sir Ehud’s lawyers said he has not been contacted by law enforcement in relation to the donation, the report said.

“The NYT’s allegations are a fabrication and Ms Dodds has unfortunately been sucked in by the paper’s outrageous distortion,” said a spokesman for Sir Ehud Sheleg in a statement.

“The facts are that Mr Kopytov, Sir Ehud’s father-in-law, is a Ukrainian victim and is no Putin ‘ally’.

“He is currently a refugee in the Czech Republic, having lost his job as a senior civil servant when the Russians annexed Crimea in 2014 and more recently he has had his Crimean assets put on the Russian ‘nationalising’ list.”

The statement said that Mr Kopytov has not made a donation to the Conservative Party through Sir Ehud or by any other means.

“The whole agenda-driven story is deeply offensive to Sir Ehud and his family, particularly given the unjustified war in Ukraine.”

Updated: May 17, 2022, 10:30 PM
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