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Cairns attended boxing bout while in Cabinet with man at centre of concerns over Russia-linked donations to Tories

02 Mar 2022 7 minutes Read
Alun Cairns by Richard Townshend (CC BY 3.0). Alexander Temerko by Wealsclaw (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Alun Cairns attended a boxing match while Welsh Secretary with an energy tycoon at the centre of concerns over Russia-linked donations to the Conservative party, Nation.Cymru has found.

A photo of the Vale of Glamorgan MP, who was a Cabinet member at the time, with Alexander Temerko, the director of Aquind Ltd, at the Principality Stadium appears on the photo gallery of the businessman’s personal website.

Temerko and his company, which was recently refused planning permission for an electricity interconnector between the UK and France following claims by former Conservative defence minister it would “damage national security”, have donated more than a million pounds to the Conservative party, including Cairns and his local party.

Temerko was previously the head of Russia’s state arms company, Russkoye Oruzhie, before going on to deputy chairman at Russian oil company, Yukos.

The Ukrainian born businesses fled to the UK in 2005 after being accused of fraud by the Putin government. The High Court refused an extradition request from Russia and he was granted citizenship in 2011, and has subsequently strongly criticised the Russian government.

MP Chris Bryant however highlighted his case while discussing Russin-linked donations to the Conservative party in the House of Commons last week.

The photo of the boxing match, which is captioned “at the boxing match in Cardiff with Alun Cairns MP”, was published on Temerko’s website on July 3, 2018.

Part of the picture on Alexander Temerko’s website

That came after two Anthony Joshua bouts in Cardiff in March 2018 and October 2017, which are the only fights listed as taking place at the Principality Stadium since 2010 according to BBC records.

The photo includes a giant screen reading “2 world champions”, which points towards it being taken at the 2018 bout. At the time Joshua held the WBA, IBF and IBO heavyweight titles, while Joseph Parker held the WBO title.

Cairns was a member of the Cabinet when those two fights took place in Cardiff, but there is no mention of a meeting with Temerko on the date of either bout on the list of ministerial meetings published by the Wales Office.

The Wales Office could not say why there was no record of the meeting. Nation.Cymru contacted Alun Cairns about the meeting but received no response.

The UK Government’s code of conduct for ministers’ states “any significant content should be passed back to the department” if ministers “find themselves discussing official business without an official present – for example at a social occasion or on holiday.”

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Cairns or Temerko. But Transparency International said the rules “leave much to be desired.”

“A Minister may happen to cross paths with someone at a social event and discuss official business, which must be reported back to the department and published, but it is mighty difficult to prove if and when a conversation like this takes place in private,” the organisation’s research officer, Rose Whiffen told Nation.Cymru.

“To bring political access and potential influence out of the shadows, the UK should meet international best practice by making it a legal requirement for lobbyists to report activity like this for public inspection.”

‘Champion’

It was revealed last month that Cairns gave advice to Elite Partners Capital, for whom he is now a £30,000-a-year consultant, while on holiday in Singapore during his time as Wales Secretary.

The meeting did appear in the ministerial transparency returns and was attended by a UK Government official who took minutes which were obtained through a freedom of information request by the International Business Times.

Temerko and his businesses have donated £20,000 to Cairns and his constituency Conservative association since 2014, most recently a £5,000 contribution to Cairns’ campaign fund ahead of the 2019 general election.

Shortly after being re-elected, Cairns established an all-party parliamentary group to “promote the security of energy supply in the UK”. That echoes Temerko’s description of himself as a “vocal champion of UK energy security” while Aquind’s website states that its interconnector is needed to “ensure additional security and diversity of energy supply.”

Cairns was recently named in a viral video posted by Led By Donkeys which highlighted donations made to Conservative MPs by Temerko and his companies and asked: “Who does Boris Johnson and his government really work for?”

The video, which actor Hugh Grant said was “essential viewing”, concluded: “The growing opposition to this project is part of a national mood which is fed up with tycoons buying access to the heart of government.”

It also features donations worth £31,231 to current Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart, and £3,000 to Vale of Clwyd MP James Davies.

‘Due diligence’

Temerko shares control of Aquind with Russian-born and Monaco based businessman Victor Fedotov, who has been the subject of a BBC investigation into alleged fraud on an energy project in Russia following information leaked in the “Pandora Papers.”

Labour have called on the Conservatives to give back £2 million worth of donations received from sources linked to Russia in light of the invasion of Ukraine.

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said: “We have raised concerns about donations to the Conservative party, who have raised £2 million worth of donations. We say they should give back that money.”

The Prime Minister is though “completely comfortable” with the donations, according to his spokesperson, who said: “We believe all due diligence is in place.”

They pointed out all donations were properly declared and that foreign donations are illegal, adding: “I would make the point that there are people in this country of Russian origin who are British citizens, and many are critics of Putin. So it’s wrong and discriminatory to tar them all with the same brush.”

Temerko himself told Politico this week that “the influence of donors is very exaggerated”, pointing to the rejection of Aquind’s planning application as evidence.

“This demonstrates that positions in the party and amounts of donations do not affect the work of government, nor do they result in special treatment,” he said.

‘Dictatorship’

Contacted by Nation.Cymru, Temerko did not reply to say whether he discussed Aquind with Cairns or who paid for the tickets to the fight.

However, on Thursday he posted a statement on his website distancing himself from Russia.

It says: “Today, Putin’s thugs are assaulting the capital of my homeland – Kyiv. Fighting is ongoing along the whole border of Ukraine. Ukrainians, my brothers and sisters, are now defending their freedom and the freedom of Europe with their very lives. They are heroically defending their homes, their families and their choice of freedom and democracy. At the same time, they are fighting for peace for the whole of Europe. I am proud to be Ukrainian.

“I am glad that my second homeland, the United Kingdom, stands shoulder to shoulder in brotherly solidarity, and offers political, military, financial and humanitarian support to the Ukrainian people who fight our common enemy.

“I trust that the outcome of this war will result not in Ukraine’s overthrow, but rather Putin’s regime. I believe that this bloody war will not break Ukraine’s spirit, but will instead embolden the people of Ukraine and of the world to stand up to and destroy tyranny.

“By removing the yoke of Putin’s dictatorship, the Russian people should also have a chance to choose a path of democracy and freedom. I know that the truth and the judgment of history is with us. As the Bible says, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?'”


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