Nationwide safety is threatened when politics is in thrall to money | Nick Cohen

TThe sight of Winston Churchill’s grandson being threatened with legal action for passing on warnings about a political influencer dealing with a hostile foreign power should shake national memories. A tingling alarm, perhaps. A feeling that patriots should be heard, not London lawyers, charging £ 500 an hour for every passing member of the global super-rich.

Last week, the Financial Times reported how former Conservative MPs Sir Nicholas Soames and Charlotte Leslie reportedly passed memos on the past dealings of a businessman and philanthropist named Mohamed Amersi in Russia to Ben Elliot, co-chair of the Conservative Party.

Amersi and his Russian-British partner Nadezhda Rodicheva have given the Tories more than £ 750,000 since 2017. In the leadership elections, Amersi noted that he had backed each horse by giving £ 10,000 each to Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Rory to Stewart. Whoever won would be in debt other than Stewart, that is, whoever returned the money with a point.

Elliot read the memos. He didn’t worry and accepted another 50 grand from Amersi. Amersi found out about the private memos. Elliot didn’t pass it on to him, I was told; they came through a third party. He hired Mishcon de Reya and Carter-Ruck to threaten Soames and Leslie with defamation and privacy violation lawsuits and said he had already spent nearly £ 300,000 on legal fees.

Amersi appears to want to meddle in one of the most sensitive areas of foreign policy by creating an alternative organization to the Conservative Middle East Council of Soames and Leslie. He is the only named shareholder in a group called Conservative Friends of the Middle East and North Africa.

It is publicly known that in 2005 Amersi earned part of its fortune doing business with an economic empire that a Swiss tribunal believed was controlled by an employee of Vladimir Putin. Amersi was charged in 2006 in a separate lawsuit in southern New York City of “extorting” US $ 2 billion from a businessman on behalf of a Russian oligarch.

Russia and China want to influence British politics. One way to do this is to give money to the ruling party and run front organizations

In 2002, an English Supreme Court judge described Amersi’s behavior as “unfortunate” and his evidence as “unreliable”. Amersi told the FT that the judge behaved like a “farmer” who did not understand the demanding business world. When I spoke to him, he claimed the judge was biased. He added, “I believe in freedom of the press.” When asked why he was threatening Soames and Leslie, he said it was up to the courts to determine the truth of the matter. He added that when he finished doing business with Russia in 2007, he had made $ 7 million and the money had gone to an apartment in Dubai rather than the Conservative Party. In the New York trial, he denied having ever been involved in extortion.

He seems determined to go to court, and maybe that’s where the truth will emerge. But anyone who has followed Russian attempts to manipulate Western democracies will know this story does not come out of nowhere.

I have spoken to many conservative sources who are concerned about the direction of their party and equally concerned that the security services are shirking their responsibilities. A security source said MI5 could not intervene in party political matters. He cited the “Wilson Doctrine,” Harold Wilson’s rule that security services should not tap MPs’ phones. With no one suggesting that they should try to manipulate governments, the response has missed every point available. I should add that the Observer tried to speak to MI5 but inevitably may not have answered our questions.

Let me get away from the Amersi case to explain why there is so much fear of where Johnson’s party and country is leading. Russia and China want to influence British politics. One way to do this is to give money to the ruling party and run front organizations. In the 2010s, Sergey Nalobin of the Russian Embassy founded the Conservative Friends of Russia. In 2015 his diplomatic visa was revoked after the security services intervened.

What would happen to a conservative friend of Russia today? Who would the security services warn if they could muster the courage to do their duty? The Intelligence and Security Committee’s Russia report explained why MI5, MI6 and the National Crime Agency withdrew from investigating Russian participation in the Brexit referendum. It was a political “hot potato” and no one wanted to face the backlash from the right that a review could bring. The report added that Russian money had created a growth industry in London of “lawyers, accountants and real estate agents” acting as “enablers”.

One of the trailblazers is Ben Elliot, whose company Quintessentially provides “concierge services” for oligarchs, including advice on buying art and wine and how to get their children to the best schools. Quintessentially has an office in Moscow. There is money so why not? Amersi was a customer and was photographed at a party with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Elliot’s aunt and wife of our future King.

In the past, MI5 would have spoken to the cabinet secretary. But today’s cabinet secretary is Simon Case, relatively young and inexperienced, and appointed by Johnson.

Remains our own dear Prime Minister. This is the decadence of the Johnson regime, nobody expects anything from it. Johnson has rich men pay for his vacations, his decorators, and even the food on his plate. To say he is for sale is an understatement of the charges against him. It has already been bought.

Johnson’s presidency marked our transition from a society with residual values ​​of honor to a country where money is all you need.

Once you had to stick to a code to join the facility. If you were caught breaking, you had to fear that your vices could discredit the broader elite. Today, if you pay enough to the right politicians, they will provide you with concierge services and ignore anyone asking boring questions about the national interest. Old Britain of the good guys who could occasionally be relied on to do the right thing has died. We no longer have a government of the good, only the bad actors.

Nick Cohen is an Observer columnist

Comments are closed.