Boris Johnson ‘wrote letter backing Jennifer Arcuri for £100k job at government-funded firm’

Leaked emails reveal mayor gave reference for 27-year-old student friend

Peter Stubley
Sunday 06 October 2019 16:55
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Boris Johnson dodges questions over alleged affair with Jennifer Arcuri

Boris Johnson backed his friend Jennifer Arcuri for a £100,000-a-year job as head of a government-funded technology company, according to leaked emails.

Mr Johnson is said to have written a reference for the former model-turned businesswoman when she applied for the role of chief executive of Tech City in 2012.

At the time he was the mayor of London and Ms Arcuri was a 27-year-old American student finishing a one-year MBA course in the capital.

“I still have the letter of rec from Boris. hahaha,” she later wrote to a friend in an email seen by The Sunday Times. “To think that we asked him to write us a recommendation for the CEO of Tech City is just hysterical.”

After her application was rejected, Ms Arcuri went on to set up a series of companies which were awarded £126,000 in public money and accompanied Mr Johnson on three overseas trade trips, it is claimed.

The prime minister has rejected claims he failed to declare a conflict of interest due to his friendship with the businesswoman and insisted there was no ”impropriety”.

Ms Arcuri has denied having an affair with Mr Johnson, telling reporters: “Men just trip over themselves in front of me. They fall in love with me in about 10 minutes, because I know what to say.

“I make men trip over their d***s. If I was banging the dude and there was some kind of like trail or sex tape, but there’s nothing... The allegations are false and I am a legitimate ­businesswoman.”

The leaked emails describe how Ms Arcuri sought to consult Mr Johnson about her job application.

“I want to walk him through the reasons... why I want the job and why I could do it,” she reportedly told friends.

“As well as explain I need no official public endorsement as long as he helps me by writing the letter (which of course I said we would do)”.

In her application she boasted about the mayor’s appearance at a “networking summit” organised by her Innotech company, it is claimed.

Ms Arcuri also received the backing of far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, who was running a failing tech start-up at the time.

The Tech City job, which oversaw £2m of public money, was eventually taken up by Joanna Shields, formerly a vice president and managing director at Facebook, in January 2013.

Her salary at the company was reported at the time to be £115,000 per year with a £25,000 bonus if her targets were met. Now rebranded as Tech Nation, the quango received £5.2m government funding for 2018-19.

Last week the London Assembly asked Mr Johnson for details of all “social, personal and professional” contact with Ms Arcuri while he was mayor. He was given until Tuesday to respond.

Responding to the new claims, Jon Trickett MP, Labour’s shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said: “The allegation that Boris Johnson recommended Jennifer Arcuri for a top government job without declaring his relationship to her is incredibly serious.

“Johnson cannot continue to stonewall and refuse to give a full account of his actions. The integrity of the prime minister is called into question when he acts as if he believes he can get away with anything.

“The public have a right to know if their prime minister has in the past misused public funds and abused his office and position of power. This cannot be swept under the carpet.”

However, Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay claimed Mr Johnson “should be extremely proud of his record as London mayor”. He added: “The PM has answered questions on this issue. He is very clear that nothing wrong was done.”

Downing Street declined to comment on the reports.

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