Foreign donors give Conservatives plenty of trouble

Election countdown
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The Independent Online
The recent history of Tory funding has been dominated by donations from foreign sources, some highly controversial. The most troublesome was pounds 440,000 from Asil Nadir, the Cypriot businessman who fled Britain after his Polly Peck group failed.

The Conservatives have refused all calls to return the money and the receivers of the company said it would cost too much to try to recover it.

Octav Botnar, former boss of Nissan UK, gave pounds 90,000 and is now living in Switzerland, having fled from the authorities. The Sunday Times said Ma Ching-kwan, one of Hong Kong's richest men, gave pounds 500,000 because he has sought help bringing his elderly father - wanted by Hong Kong police - back to Hong Kong without fear of prosecution.

Other Hong Kong donors included the late Sir YK Pao, head of Wharfe Holdings, who gave pounds 1m, and Li Ka Shing, who donated pounds 900,000. Peter Woo, who took over from his father-in-law, YK Pao, as head of Wharfe Holdings, gave pounds 200,000 in 1994. Stephen Byers, a Labour frontbencher, identified another five Hong Kong citizens who gave a total of just under pounds 500,000.

John Latsis, a Greek shipping magnate, gave pounds 500,000 before the last election, which was recently confirmed by Lord McAlpine, former party treasurer. Mr Latsis is thought to have given other donations amounting to a total of pounds 1.5m.

Mohamed Al Fayed, owner of Harrods, gave pounds 250,000 in 1987 but has since fallen out with the Tories. Probably the biggest recent British contributor was Graham Kirkham, a recently knighted businessman, who provided a "soft loan" of pounds 4m.

The Tories refuse to submit their accounts to public scrutiny, saying donations are a private matter between donor and recipient. A Conservative Central Office source privately denied that much money was obtained from abroad but admitted: "Lots comes from people on the Honours List. That's where you should look if you're interested in finding out where the money comes from."

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