Controversial Lib Dem donor gave £200,000 to election campaign

15 Jun

A businessman who is facing claims in India that he had a role in the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal gave £200,000 to the Liberal Democrats’ general election campaign, it has emerged.

Sudhir Choudhrie has denied he acted as a middleman in Rolls-Royce deals investigated by the Serious Fraud Office, after calls by anti-corruption campaigners for a criminal inquiry in New Delhi.

According to Electoral Commission data on money given to political parties in the week to 6 June, he became one of the Lib Dems’ most generous donors of the campaign with the gift.

The data also shows the Conservatives raised more than the other parties combined, at £1.61m. The Lib Dems raised £350,000 and Labour £65,000.

In the run-up to the campaign Choudhrie held monthly meetings with the then Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron. Choudhrie is the party’s adviser on India.

In January Rolls-Royce agreed to pay £671m in penalties to settle long-running bribery investigations by the Serious Fraud Office and overseas prosecutors, but separate criminal inquiries may follow in countries around the world where the company has admitted corruption.

The Guardian and the BBC’s Panorama have previously revealed that Choudhrie family companies were paid millions by Rolls-Royce for their work in India.

In a letter, the Choudhries’ lawyers said: “Mr Choudhrie has never paid bribes to government officials or acted as an illegal ‘middleman’ in defence deals.”

Donors to the Tories included Express Newspapers, which gave nearly £80,000 in free advertising. The newspaper’s proprietor, Richard Desmond, backed Ukip in 2015 with a £1m donation, but his paper’s support for the anti-European party has waned since Britain voted to leave the EU.

Two of David Cameron’s most important donors also gave money in the last week of the campaign. Ian Taylor, the founder of oil traders Vitol, gave £25,000. Taylor withdrew his name from consideration for a knighthood in Cameron’s resignation honours list last year. Questions had been raised about Vitol’s activities in politically sensitive areas around the world. Taylor has been a Conservative donor for several years, and supported the remain campaign.

Countywide Developments, a property company run by Tony Gallagher, gave £25,000 in the last week. At the end of last year, Cameron celebrated his 50th birthday at the Gallagher’s 17th-century Oxfordshire mansion.

David Rowland, a billionaire property developer, gave £100,000 to the May campaign.

Labour received £10,000 from the comedian Eddie Izzard and £8,000 from Matt Wrack, the head of the Fire Brigades Union.

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