David Cameron’s general election strategist has hired the former boss of a controversial corporate intelligence agency linked to a scandal that forced the resignation of Liam Fox as Defence Secretary.
The Independent has learnt that Lynton Crosby, the Australian political operator running the Tories’ general election campaign, appointed Eugene Curley to the board of two of his companies last month and that he is expected to take on a full-time executive role imminently.
The Conservatives have insisted that Mr Curley will not be working on the party’s election campaign. The Tories’ contract is not with Mr Crosby himself but with his firm CrosbyTextor. A number of CrosbyTextor employees are known to be providing external support to the party.
Mr Curley has a low public profile but enjoys close links with the highest levels of Government. He started his career at the Bank of England but then spent more than 25 years in the Foreign Office with postings in Mexico, Paris and to the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Most recently he has been working as chief executive of the secretive investigations agency the Good Governance Group (G3), which employs a number of former intelligence and security officials from around the world.
G3 specialises in providing intelligence for big business including “competitor analysis” and cyber security. The chairman of G3’s advisory board is the Duke of Westminster.
In 2011, it emerged that the firm was one of several companies with security interests to fund the international flights of Adam Werritty, close adviser to the then Defence Secretary Liam Fox. Mr Fox was forced to resign after he was found guilty of a serious breach of the ministerial code.
G3 also used to employ John Yates, the Met’s former head of counter-terrorism, who left Scotland Yard amid claims he failed properly to investigate phone hacking at the News of the World.
The agency was reportedly paid £1.5m by the government of Bahrain to “support [its] stance before the international community”. When he worked for G3, Mr Yates acted as police adviser to the dictatorial regime, which has been condemned for its brutal oppression of opponents.
When Bahrain’s Formula One Grand Prix took place against a backdrop of protests, Mr Yates appeared on news reports defending the stuttering reform process and describing the unrest as “criminal acts” against “unarmed police” who acted with “remarkable restraint”.
A Tory spokesman said: “It is categorically wrong to suggest Mr Curley will at any point be working on the Conservative campaign in any form.”
A spokesperson for CrosbyTextor said Mr Curley had been hired for his “outstanding experience in business”.
They added that suggesting or hinting that he is joining the CrosbyTextor group to work with the Conservative Party, or on the election, “is simple fabrication”.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, Mr Curley will be working for another division of the group that has no involvement with, nor does any work for or designed to benefit, the Conservative Party,” the spokesperson said.