Tories accepted a six-figure donation whose 'ultimate source' was a pro-Kremlin former Ukrainian politician, report says

·3 min read
Tories accepted a six-figure donation whose 'ultimate source' was a pro-Kremlin former Ukrainian politician, report says
  • The Conservatives took a major donation that can be traced to a pro-Kremlin ex-politician, NYT reports.

  • The £450,000 sum was registered in Ehud Sheleg's name, but authorities were told it originated with his father-in-law.

  • Sergei Kopytov was a senior politician in the previous pro-Kremlin government of Ukraine, the NYT says.

The UK's ruling Conservative Party accepted a six-figure donation that has been traced to a man who was once a senior politician in the previous pro-Kremlin government of Ukraine, the New York Times reported.

Ehud Sheleg, an art dealer and major donor who was once in line for a peerage, gave the Tories a £450,000 ($550,000) donation, which was registered under his name in March 2018, when Theresa May was prime minister.

But documents filed with the National Crime Agency suggest the money originated from the Russian account of Sheleg's father-in-law, Sergei Kopytov, according to the New York Times.

"We are able to trace a clear line back from this donation to its ultimate source," Barclays bank wrote in a January 2021 alert to the UK's law enforcement body, per the NYT report.

The bank flagged the donation as both suspected money laundering and a potentially illegal campaign donation.

Thomas Rudkin, Sheleg's lawyer, told the NYT that Sheleg and his wife had received millions of dollars from Kopytov in the weeks before the donation, but said this was "entirely separate."

"There is absolutely no basis for suggesting that Mr. Kopytov's gift for his daughter was intended as, or for the purpose of making, a political donation to the Conservative Party," Rudkin said.

It is illegal for political parties to accept donations of more than £500 ($610) from foreign citizens who are not registered to vote in Britain.

A Conservative Party spokesman told Insider: "The Conservative Party only accepts donations from permissible sources, namely individuals registered on the UK's electoral roll or UK registered companies. Donations are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, openly published by them and comply fully with the law."

The revelation comes amid increased scrutiny on the Conservatives' financial links to Russia in light of Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

It emerged last month that a major party donor was the director of a firm secretly owned by a Russian oligarch described as being in Putin's "inner circle".

In March, Insider revealed that a Russian former banker with an overturned money laundering conviction, who has given £25,000 ($30,485) to Dominic Raab, was made president of a local Conservative association.

Tory MPs are also concerned about the Russian connections of the party's co-chairman and fundraising chief Ben Elliott, via his high-end concierge service Quintessentially, and have called for him to go.

Insider has also revealed the FSB links of a woman working in several Conservative associations, and how a Russian lawyer offered a Kazakh prosecutor free membership to Quintessentially.

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