Labour MP Margaret Hodge, a veteran in her field, has accused a prominent Tory donor of employing intimidating legal threats to suppress the report, which alleged the donor’s involvement in an international corruption scandal.
During his speech in the House of Commons on Thursday, former Tory cabinet minister David Davis leveled an accusation against Hodge, the head of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on anti-corruption and responsible tax, stating that Mohamed Amersi had effectively silenced her.
The Tory donor who supported Boris Johnson‘s bid for the top job is suing the BBC after suing former Tory MP Charlotte Leslie unsuccessfully.
Amersi called the comments “grossly erroneous and misleading”.
The chair of the APPG on anti-corruption and responsible tax wrote a report titled “Losing Our Moral Compass” about corrupt money and politics. King’s College London (KCL), where Hodge serves as a visiting professor, published the report last year.
Davis informed MPs that the withdrawal occurred following Amersi’s claim, through his lawyers at Carter-Ruck, that two sections concerning him were highly defamatory. Amersi reserved the right to pursue legal action.
The former cabinet minister read out the excerpts about Amersi from the report, which Hodge said she intended to republish in full, relying on privilege (a defence to defamation, which reports of parliamentary proceedings attract).
The relevant sections of the report contained details from a 2021 joint investigation by the Guardian and BBC. The investigation, based on the Pandora papers leak, described how Amersi provided advice on the structure of a deal. Later, it was revealed that the deal amounted to a $220m (£162m) bribe for the daughter of the then president of Uzbekistan.
Quoting Hodge’s report, Davis said the leak brought to light how Amersi “allegedly used [British Virgin Islands]-based companies to profit from apparently corrupt deals between a Swedish telecoms giant and a key power broker in the kleptocratic regime in Uzbekistan”.
The second section Davis read out said comments by Amersi – also previously reported – “seems [sic] to confirm that political donations can have a sinister purpose, after he described his frustrations at what he called ‘access capitalism’”.
Amersi previously admitted to buying access to Prince Charles and has donated £750,000 (including his wife’s contributions) to the Conservative party since 2017. He claims to have paid £250,000 to become a member of the party’s “advisory board which has regular meetings with Boris Johnson and leading cabinet members”.