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Friday, June 26, 2020

More questions on activities of Tory Minister

Just how much political capital does Boris Johnson have left? He has already used up significant goodwill within his own party in defending Dominic Cummings, now he has put his weight behind his housing secretary, despite the many questions over how Robert Jenrick has been interacting with key Tory donors. It is one thing to be loyal to one's friends, but surely the Prime Minister does not need these distractions at such a crucial time.

Jenrick is facing claims that he bent over backwards to assist Richard Desmond, by rushing through a £1bn property development against advice, so that the Tory donor’s company could save £45 million. A £12,000 donation to the conservative party and stories of the two men sitting together at a fundraising dinner, when a video of the proposed development was allegedly shown to the minister, have added fuel to the fire.

Now there is further controversy, with the Guardian reporting that Jenrick is facing new questions over his links to wealthy Conservative donors after it emerged that he met an Israeli businessman with an interest in the future of a multibillion-pound project that the minister was overseeing:

The Guardian has obtained information about his ties to another billionaire, Idan Ofer, a London-based shipping and mining heir whose father, Sammy, was once Israel’s richest man.

Departmental registers reveal a meeting on 21 March 2018 between Jenrick, who was then exchequer secretary to the Treasury, and Ofer, the ultimate owner of the UK mining company Cleveland Potash.

At the time, Jenrick was assessing whether to offer state support for a new potash mine being built by a rival company, Sirius Minerals, which was set to provide intense competition to Ofer’s loss-making business.

A spokesman for Jenrick said he recused himself from any decisions on the Sirius project, but did not say when. The Guardian understands that Jenrick retained oversight of Sirius Minerals’ application for financial support from the Treasury for at least six months after his meeting with Ofer in March 2018.

Liz Truss, then the more senior chief secretary to the Treasury, is understood to have taken over the job of assessing Sirius’s application for support, but not until early 2019.

One of Ofer’s other UK firms, the Mayfair-based Quantum Pacific UK Corporation, subsequently donated to the Conservatives for the first and only time, giving the party £10,000 in March 2019.

The company was eventually refused the support, but the carelessness being displayed by the minister with these meetings must surely cast doubt on his future in government.
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