MPs demand Tories return Javad Marandi donations after links to money laundering probe revealed

The Tory party was today urged to return the hundreds of thousands of pounds donated to it by the business tycoon Javad Marandi as Parliament was told that the “damning” revelations about his links to a money laundering case risked undermining trust in democracy.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge said that the disclosure by this newspaper and the BBC that Mr Marandi was a “person of importance” in case involving a “criminal enterprise” known as the Azerbaijan laundromat moving corrupt funds around the world meant that “if true, dirty money has well and truly crept into our politics.”

She told the Commons during an urgent parliamentary question prompted by the revelations that the Conservative Party, which has received hundreds of thousands of pounds in donations from Mr Marandi, should return the money and called for ministers to report back to MPs on any access that the businessman had received to the government in return for his money.

“These revelations are completely damning. There is an investigation into the Azerbaijan laundromat, $2.9 billion stolen, laundered through UK companies used to bribe politicians and line the pockets of corrupt Azerbaijani elite and Javad Marandi is linked with it. Now we hear that he donated three quarters of a million pounds to the Tory party, got an OBE and access to government ministers. We should take these allegations very seriously. If true, dirty money has well and truly crept into our politics.

“The Conservative Party won’t regulate itself so will the government bring forward regulations requiring all parties to do due diligence and checks on the source of all political donations? Will the minister make sure that this donation is returned and will he investigate and report back to Parliament on any access that Mr Marandi got to government ministers because of his large donations to the Conservative Party?”

The policing minister Chris Philp responded that “people are entitled to be assumed innocent until proven guilty” but said that he welcomed the National Crime Agency investigation – which targeted three members of an Azeri oligarch’s family - leading to the identification of Mr Marandi’s connection to the money laundering case.

He added that “no-one wants to see dirty money flowing through London” but told MPs that he had only just learnt of Mr Marandi’s connection to the case and that strict rules applied to political donations which were in the process of being scrutinised to see whether further strengthening was needed.

Alison Thewliss, the Scottish Nationalist Party MP who tabled the urgent question, praised the Evening Standard and the BBC for bringing Mr Marandi’s involvement to public attention in what she described as a victory for open justice.

“The news that Javad Marandi has lost an 18 month legal battle .. to remain anonymous is a victory for transparency and freedom of the press in a battle often weighted in favour of wealthy oligarchs. It also goes to the heart of our democracy. Although it is incumbent upon me to state that Mr Marandi denies any wrongdoing, the National Crime Agency has found that companies linked to Mr Marandi are a crucial part of the money laundering network known as the Azerbaijan laundromat.

“Credit must go to the Evening Standard’s Martin Bentham, the BBC’s Steve Swann and Dominic Casciani of the BBC, the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, who back in 2017 exposed the $2.9 billion stolen from the people of Azerbaijan, and to the National Crime Agency for their part in this case naming Mr Marandi as a person of importance.

“The UK must not be a home for dirty money but has become so under the Tories. Mr Marandi appears to have used corporate structures including Scottish limited partnerships Hilux Services LP and Polux Management LP registered to a mailbox in my constituency.

“There are clear political and security aspects to this case. Mr Marandi is a significant donor to the Conservative Party. This money secured him access to the Conservative leader group and advisory board, part of a wider effort no doubt of reputation laundering.”

She asked Mr Philp to tell MPs which meetings Mr Marandi had had with ministers and “what influence his donations have bought him” as well as when ministers had learnt of his connection to the Azerbaijan laundromat and what action had been taken.