Norfolk MP defends £48,000 donations from duo with links to Russia
PUBLISHED: 13:44 24 July 2020 | UPDATED: 13:44 24 July 2020
A Norfolk MP has defending accepting donations from wealthy individuals with links to Russia and President Vladimir Putin, insisting the benefactors are “British citizens.”
Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis received £25,000 from Lubov Chernukhin, a banker and wife of Mr Putin’s former deputy finance minister, and £23,000 from Alexander Temerko, a former chief of a Russian arms company.
Mrs Chernukhin has been donating to the Conservative party for a number of years, having been understood to have previously placed a winning bid of £160,000 at a 2014 Tory fundraiser to play a doubles game of tennis with Boris Johnson and then prime minister David Cameron.
Mr Lewis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we need to be fairly clear about this so we don’t get the facts wrong - these are British citizens.
“They are properly declared, we do not accept funds from foreign nationals. These are British citizens and I would absolutely defend the right of any British citizen, including the people you’ve outlined who have donated to myself and others, to play their full part in our democracy.
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“That doesn’t just mean voting, that means supporting, if they want to, political parties and political candidates, and I’m very proud of the fact that, as a country, we allow British citizens to do that.”
He said, when asked about what the donors received in return, that the transactions were about supporting the party.
Mr Lewis added: “To effectively make the case we should treat some parts of British society, some British citizens, different to others is inappropriate, it’s wrong and I defend all British citizens’ rights to be able to promote support and vote for the party they want.”
Former Labour minister Chris Bryant accused the government, during an urgent question on Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee report in the Commons on Wednesday, of “giving out golden visas to dodgy Russian oligarchs.”
Speaking to the PA news agency, he said: “In Brandon Lewis’ case, when he was saying they were British citizens, I felt like saying ‘Yes, because you made them British citizens’.”
When questioned on the donations, Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated the party does not accept foreign donations.
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