Tory Scandal: History of doubtful donations

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The Independent Online
Although the Tories are loath to admit it, they know that some of the donations made to the party in the past - particularly from foreign benefactors - were unwisely accepted at times of deep financial crisis.

Yesterday, the party's old policy of keeping all donors secret caused fresh embarrassment. Even though they may have wished to rubbish the Ma family's claims, they were powerless to do so; a spokesman said the party was not allowed to discuss any gifts made before Mr Hague's ascendancy.

In future, all donations over pounds 5,000 will be made public, as the Labour Party's already are.

Of all the foreign donations, the one that has haunted the Tories the most - until today - was the pounds 440,000 given by Asil Nadir, the Cypriot businessman who fled the UK following the collapse of his Polly Peck empire amid allegations of fraud.

Despite Mr Nadir's refusal to return to Britain from northern Cyprus to face the charges, the Tories have steadfastly refused to return the donation. A spokesman said yesterday that its provenance was in dispute.

Octav Botnar, the former boss of Nissan UK, gave pounds 90,000 to the party before the Inland Revenue linked him with a pounds 139m tax swindle.

Others have been involved in no wrong-doing but their unmasking as donors has either caused embarrassment or raised questions over their motives for giving money to the party that was in power.

Hong Kong has long been a big source of Tory party money. Following research by Labour's Stephen Byers while the Conservatives were still in power, it emerged that other donors to the Tories were Sir YK Pao, head of Wharfe Holdings, who gave pounds 1m and Li Ka Shing, who donated pounds 900,000. Peter Woo, Pao's successor at Wharfe Holdings, gave pounds 200,000 in 1994.

Before the 1992 General Election, John Latsis, the Greek shipping magnate, was reported to have given pounds 500,000, a figure confirmed by Lord McAlpine, a former party treasurer. Following the election, it is understood Mr Latsis gave further amounts totalling pounds 1.5m. Graham Kirkwood, a businessman knighted last year by the Tories, gave a "soft loan" of pounds 4m.

Mohamed Al-Fayed, the owner of Harrods, gave the party pounds 250,000. Mr Fayed was anxious to be granted British citizenship. After the Conservatives' failure to embrace him to their bosom, the Egyptian released details of the cash-for-questions scandal.