Boris Johnson referred to police watchdog for possible 'misconduct in public office' investigation over relationship with Jennifer Arcuri

Greater London Authority opens possibility of criminal probe into allegations relating to PM’s links to businesswoman

Jane Dalton,Rob Merrick
Friday 27 September 2019 22:29 BST
'Everything was done with complete propriety' Boris dodges questions over Jennifer Arcuri reports

The threat to Boris Johnson from alleged favours granted to his friend Jennifer Arcuri while he was London mayor has deepened, with a referral to a police watchdog for a possible “misconduct” inquiry.

The Greater London Authority (GLA) has asked the Independent Office for Police Conduct to assess whether the prime minister should be formally investigated over his relationship with the US tech entrepreneur and former model.

It wants the probe to explore whether Ms Arcuri was allowed to join trade missions, and received large grants, “when she and her companies could not have expected otherwise to receive those benefits”.

The bombshell move, to examine whether “a criminal offence” was committed, escalates the danger to Mr Johnson’s position from a controversy he has attempted to shrug off.

The prime minister has insisted “everything was done entirely in the proper way” – while refusing to answer questions about whether he had had a sexual relationship with Ms Arcuri.

He was a regular visitor to Ms Arcuri's flat in east London, and attended numerous events promoting her fledgling company, according to The Sunday Times, which broke the story.

In a statement, Downing Street continued to insist he had done nothing wrong, saying: “The prime minister, as mayor of London, did a huge amount of work when selling our capital city around the world, beating the drum for London and the UK.”

Behind the scenes, No 10 is furious about it considers to be a “politically motivated attack” by the GLA, the office of the current mayor, Labour’s Sadiq Khan. It is understood Mr Johnson was given no warning of the announcement before a press release was issued by the GLA’s monitoring officer.

The referral does not mean or imply he is guilty, but is a request for an investigation. While London mayor, he was also a police and crime commissioner, which is why the police regulator is now involved.

The department for culture, media and sport was already investigating whether a business operated by Ms Arcuri obtained a £100,000 grant for UK-based companies to train people to avoid cyber attacks, despite being based in the US.

And Labour has demanded an investigation by the cabinet secretary into the possible misuse of public funds, calling on Mr Johnson to resign if he is found guilty of wrongdoing.

It is claimed that in 2013 Ms Arcuri’s business received £10,000 in sponsorship cash from an organisation that the future prime minister was responsible for as mayor.

She was given a £15,000 government grant in 2014, under a programme to encourage foreign entrepreneurs to build businesses in Britain, and, last year, the further £100,000 award.

Ms Arcuri was also given preferential treatment when it came to joining overseas trade missions led by Mr Johnson, The Sunday Times reported.

Her business was alleged to have failed to meet the eligibility criteria for the three trade trips she attended in one year, but the rejections were overturned after Mr Johnson and his team intervened, it was claimed.

A statement by the authority read: “The monitoring officer of the Greater London Authority (GLA) has today recorded a ‘conduct matter’ against Boris Johnson and referred him to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) so it can assess whether or not it is necessary to investigate the former mayor of London for the criminal offence of misconduct in public office.

“The ‘conduct matter’ has been recorded as allegations have been brought to the attention of the monitoring officer that Boris Johnson maintained a friendship with Jennifer Arcuri and as a result of that friendship allowed Ms Arcuri to participate in trade missions and receive sponsorship monies in circumstances when she and her companies could not have expected otherwise to receive those benefits.”

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The monitoring officer has a legal duty to record any conduct matters relating to the mayor in his capacity as equivalent to Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater London, the statement went on.

“A ‘conduct matter’ exists where there is information that indicates that a criminal offence may have been committed. It does not mean that this is proved in any way.

“The IOPC will now consider if it is necessary for the matter to be investigated.”

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