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Secretary of State Brandon Lewis in £10k donor controversy


NI Secretary of State Brandon Lewis

NI Secretary of State Brandon Lewis

NI Secretary of State Brandon Lewis

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis received a five-figure sum from a donor suspected of funnelling Russian money to the Conservative Party, Sunday Life can reveal.

The £10,000 came from Sir Ehud Sheleg and was given to Mr Lewis in February 2020 which he declared on the House of Commons register of members interests.

Sir Ehud, who at the time was Tory Party treasurer, made the donation in a personal capacity and there is no suggestion there was anything improper about it.

It has now emerged that in January 2021, Barclays raised a so-called “alert” with the National Crime Agency (NCA) about the transfer of £450,000 from Sir Ehud to the party dating from 2018.

The New York Times has reported that the high street bank, which managed accounts linked to the transaction, had traced the ultimate source of the money to a Russian account in the name of Sir Ehud’s father-in-law, Sergei Kopytov.

Under political funding rules, a party cannot accept more than £500 from a foreign national who is not registered to vote in the UK.

Sunday Life has asked the Conservative Party if Mr Lewis took steps to ensure the donation of £10,000 to him by Sir Ehud complied with UK political funding rules but as yet has had no response.

Documents seen by The New York Times contain a memo from Barclays to the NCA about the £450,000 which stated: “We are able to trace a clear line back from this donation to its ultimate source.

“Kopytov can be stated with considerable certainty to have been the true source of the donation.”

A lawyer for Sir Ehud acknowledged he received millions of dollars from his father-in-law in the weeks before the donation but that it was “entirely separate”.

“There is absolutely no basis for suggesting that Mr Kopytov’s gift for his daughter was intended as, or for the purpose of making, a political donation to the Conservative Party,” he told the newspaper.

Mr Kopytov previously served in the pro-Kremlin government of Crimea prior to its annexation by Russia in 2014 and now owns hotels in the disputed region.

In a statement to the newspaper he said: “I have no interest in British politics whatsoever.”

He added: "Any donations made by my son-in-law to a British political party have nothing to do with me or with the money I gifted to my daughter.”

According to the newspaper the Barclays alert said the $2.5m was transferred from Mr Kopytov’s bank account in Russia in January 2018 and then into various empty accounts across Europe belonging to Sir Ehud and his wife.

It then went into an offshore account linked to a family trust before arriving in a joint account in the name of Sir Ehud and his wife.

The next day $630,225 was transferred from that account to the Conservative Party which declared it as a £450,000 donation.

Sir Ehud’s lawyer told the newspaper the $2.5m was a gift, derived from a property sale, which was transferred to the family trust to repay a loan, adding that his client then borrowed money from that trust to donate to the Conservative Party.

Since 2017, Sir Ehud has donated more than £3.5m to the Conservatives and was given a knighthood in the 2019 resignation honours of Theresa May.

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