Boris Johnson asked for Jennifer Arcuri to be included on Israel trade trip while he was mayor, says former adviser

The ex-City Hall aide says organisers were 'shocked' to see US businesswoman on Tel Aviv visit

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Thursday 03 October 2019 18:36 BST
Boris Johnson dodges questions over alleged affair with Jennifer Arcuri

A former adviser to Boris Johnson has claimed that the prime minister asked for his friend Jennifer Arcuri to be included in a trade trip to Israel while he was mayor of London, it has been reported.

The ex-City Hall worker told Sky News that organisers of the visit were “shocked” to see the US businesswoman join them on the visit to Tel Aviv.

Speaking under condition of anonymity, the official said they understood that the mayor had personally asked for her to be involved, even though the visit was focused on a different sector of industry.

Mr Johnson is facing a possible investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct into whether he breached laws on misconduct in public office over his links to Ms Arcuri.

He insists that there was no impropriety in his relationship with the businesswoman, who has been awarded a total of £126,000 in public money in a series of grants as well as allegedly being granted preferential access to three mayoral trade missions.

Pressed earlier this week over whether he declared an interest when Ms Arcuri was invited on trips, he said there was “no interest to declare”.

Recalling the Israel trip, the former mayoral aide told Sky: “I got to Tel Aviv and was sitting in the hotel bar with delegates when I saw Jennifer Arcuri walk in.

“I turned to the person organising the trip and asked: ‘What’s she doing here?’ Apparently the mayor asked for her to be involved.

“There was never a mention of her joining. I thought it was very unusual for her to be on this trip because it was so focused on educational technology and that wasn’t her business.”

The adviser said there was a “cachet” for small businesses included in a mayoral delegation, and they went through a careful selection process before being invited.

“It’s an advantage for a small company,” said the source. “To be afforded that opportunity three times is very unusual.”

Asked whether Mr Johnson personally intervened to ensure Ms Arcuri was invited on the trip, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “You’ve heard the prime minister about this in numerous questions over the last week. Everything was appropriate and above board.”

Boris Johnson has refused to answer reporters’ questions about whether he had an intimate relationship with Ms Arcuri
Boris Johnson has refused to answer reporters’ questions about whether he had an intimate relationship with Ms Arcuri (Rex)

Ms Acuri has insisted that she was not given special treatment in relation to foreign trade trips.

She told the Daily Mail: “I had every right to be on those trips as a legitimate businesswoman and stand by everything that happened because these allegations are completely false.”

The PM is facing several reviews of his conduct and London Assembly members on the powerful oversight committee have given him until Monday to provide further details about his contact with Ms Arcuri.

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