Give me back my £200,000, major donor tells Tories | Conservatives
A major Conservative Party supporter is demanding the return of £200,000 in donations after complaining he was barred from elite political events and never received auction prizes he had bid for at dinner parties fundraising, including breakfast with Boris Johnson.
Telecoms businessman Mohamed Amersi paid £50,000 to be a member of the Conservative donors’ club, the Leader’s Group, in December 2020. But he says he was dropped from the invitation list for the events high profile last year, and that officials were instructed not to invite him to the party. winter ball last November.
He says he also paid £150,000 for auction prizes he never received, including breakfast with the Prime Minister, a Japanese meal with Jeremy Hunt and a ‘magic show’ from the former secretary at Defense Penny Mordaunt, who once worked as a magician’s assistant.
Emails and documents regarding Amersi’s donation reveal how eager officials at Tory headquarters were for his support. One note even offered to help him with his ambition to become chairman of the National Lottery Community Fund, a £40,000-a-year job he had been shortlisted for.
Amersi said over the weekend that while the donation system appears to be giving donors a “boost” it needs an overhaul to bring more transparency. He said he was let down by party officials who failed to fulfill their obligations.
Amersi, 61, said over the weekend: “You expect [what is arguably] the oldest political party in the world would treat a major donor with courtesy and respect. If for some reason they felt they couldn’t keep any of the promises, they might have said, “Can we write you a check and refund you?” Instead they didn’t refund my money and didn’t invite me to any events.
A legal letter seen by the Observer and sent to Ben Elliot, co-chairman of the Conservative Party and co-founder of concierge company Quintessentially, is the latest out of a year-long dispute involving Amersi and other party figures over a new group of friends. Middle Eastern Conservatives, which he chairs. Amersi’s lawyers warn that unless the dispute is settled out of court, officials should come forward with proposals to reimburse his donations and other costs.
Amersi believes one of the reasons for his exclusion is that he has exposed the ‘access capitalism’ he claims Elliot presides over, in which he claims privileged relationships are extended to those who make large donations. . His business activity in Russia and his role as adviser on a deal in Uzbekistan also came under scrutiny last year, but he denies any wrongdoing and a report on him by party officials has failed. reported no major concerns.
Amersi has donated more than £500,000 to the Conservative Party since 2018 and, at a fundraising dinner at the Carlton Club in London in November 2019, he successfully donated £100,000 for Breakfast with Johnson . He says he paid £50,000 for other prizes, including the meal with Hunt and the show with Mordaunt which he applied for in February 2019 at the annual Black and White Ball at Battersea Evolution in London.
According to internal documents obtained by the ObserverTory officials feared in December 2020 that Amersi would renew his membership of the Leader’s Group, which requires a minimum donation of £50,000 and provides access to events with senior Tory figures, including the Prime Minister.
“Amersi is very interested in chairing the Lottery Fund and certainly has the skills,” said a redacted email sent Dec. 21, 2020 from a parliamentary email address to a party official. “I know you work with the public appointments team. Can we see that he is at least being considered for the role. It was agreed in email correspondence that there would be efforts “to get the progress Mohamed deserves”.
Amersi had actually been interviewed for the role the previous month after being shortlisted by the public nominations team, but was told that a final decision would not be made until the new year. He said he had been shortlisted on his merits and was unaware of any help from the Conservative Party.
On December 22, Mike Chattey, head of fundraising for the party, said Amersi had agreed to join the Leader’s Group. Amersi said in an email the same day that he hoped, given his background and qualifications, that the party would support his candidacy for president of the National Lottery Community Fund, and for a group that he led, Comena, the conservative Friends of the Middle East and North Africa, to affiliate with the party.
He stressed that this support was neither conditional nor “transactional” and said it was “great to be part of the family again”. In this case, the role of the lottery was entrusted to an eminent lawyer, Blondel Cluff.
In late 2020, a “due diligence” memo was drafted on Amersi by former Tory MP Charlotte Leslie, who is director of the Middle East Conservative Council, a separate group from the one Amersi had worked on. The note gave details of Amersi’s past, his associates and his relations with Russia. The memo was reportedly sent to party officials in January 2021 and sparked a flurry of emails. Amersi said he considered the note defamatory. There were concerns about the ‘blue on blue’ dispute in the party, and it was suggested in an email that Amersi would be kicked out ‘into the very long grass’. It was also proposed that a detailed report be produced on his journey. But he did not hesitate to take his money. Amersi’s £50,000 donation to the Leader’s Group was accepted on January 18, 2021.
The pandemic caused initial delays in arranging breakfast with Johnson, and officials also wanted to make sure it was properly vetted before any meetings. A No 10 official wrote in April 2021: ‘He’s a massive donor, just want to know if he’s likely to explode into something if we do breakfast.’
On August 25, 2020, a Conservative Research Department audit report concluded that the party’s close ties to Amersi were “good to continue, with minor concerns”. The six-page report said he had international business interests, with evidence of involvement in tax havens, but it flagged no material issues.
In the summer of last year, Amersi lifted the lid on how Elliot was offering wealthy benefactors privileged access to the highest ranks of the Conservative Party and even access to Prince Charles. Amersi paid £15,000 a year to be a member of Elliot’s concierge company, Quintessentially.
It was also reported last October that he advised on the structure of a deal that later turned out to be a $220m (£162m) bribe for the daughter of the then President of Uzbekistan. Amersi’s lawyers said others had done their due diligence on the deal and he had no reason to believe it could be a bribe .
Amersi says he is now effectively excluded from the party’s ‘inner circle’, despite passing his vetting checks, and thinks his revelations about Elliot’s operations are likely to blame.
The businessman is now taking legal action against Leslie over the note on her background and has come under fire in Parliament for using the court to try to ‘bully’ her into silence. He says he wants to uphold his reputation, but his efforts to reach a settlement and avoid a costly legal battle have been unsuccessful.
Amersi says Elliot reneged on an agreement to have Comena affiliated with the party. Amersi said last week that he did not consider Elliot co-chairman of the party: “You can’t ask donors for help, expect them to buy prizes at auction, keep their money and then, like garbage collectors, send them to the trash.”
Conservative party lawyers reportedly told Amersi’s legal team that they considered his potential claim to be “legally unfounded”.
A spokesman for the Conservative Party said: ‘Public appointments are for the government. Donations to the Conservative Party are received in good faith, after appropriate due diligence, from authorized sources. Donations are appropriately and transparently reported to and published by the Electoral Commission, and are fully compliant with the law. »