The Electoral Commission has launched an investigation into the funding of works on Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat, the official residence of the British Prime Minister.
According to the BBC report, the spending watchdog said there were “reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred”.
The Prime Minister is under growing pressure to declare how refurbishments were paid for after his ex-adviser said there was a plan for donors to “secretly pay”.
Mr Johnson told MPs he had covered the revamp “personally”, but would not say who had paid the initial bill.
And, speaking at the government’s Covid press conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock repeatedly refused to comment on the funding of the refurbishment, urging the media to “concentrate on the big things that really matter”.
“What is the row over Boris Johnson’s flat about?
In its investigation, the commission – the independent watchdog regulating UK political finance – will assess the Conservative Party’s compliance with laws on political donations.
It will examine whether any spending on the flat falls within its remit and if it was published as required.
The commission can impose fines if breaches are found, or pass on allegations to the police if it sees fit.
During fraught exchanges at Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer pushed Mr Johnson to explain who had paid the initial invoice for renovations – asking whether it was the taxpayer, the Conservative Party, a private donor or Mr Johnson himself.
He accused the government of being “mired in sleaze, cronyism and scandal”.
But Mr Johnson replied: “The answer is I have covered the costs… I conformed in full with the code of conduct and officials have kept advising me through this whole thing.”
The Treasury has revealed that Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Mr Johnson’s neighbour in Downing Street, also redecorated his flat last year, saying the costs were paid “upfront and entirely at his own expense”.
“Baffling” – that is one cabinet source’s verdict on how No 10 is handling the allegations about the renovations of the Downing Street flat.
Matt Hancock repeatedly wouldn’t engage in questions on the matter at Wednesday’s press conference.
And Boris Johnson wouldn’t answer the central question in the Commons earlier during a session of Prime Minister’s Questions, where he looked more red-faced and furious than can be recalled.
The question is a simple one. Who paid the bill for the Downing Street flat makeover at the start?
And for as long as the PM won’t answer that, the question will be asked again, and again, and again.
No 10 has also confirmed the appointment of a new independent adviser on ministers’ interests.
Crossbench peer Lord Geidt will take up the role, unfilled for five months since the resignation of Sir Alex Allan in November 2020.
Sir Alex quit after Mr Johnson rejected his finding that Home Secretary Priti Patel had broken the ministerial code over bullying allegations.
Downing Street also confirmed Lord Geidt would carry out his own inquiry into the funding of the renovations and “advise the prime minister on any further registration of interests that may be needed”.
However, the prime minister’s spokesman later said Mr Johnson “remains the ultimate arbiter” of the ministerial code – setting out rules of conduct – and would decide whether to accept or reject any findings.
The prime minister’s former senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, claimed last week that Mr Johnson had once planned to have donors “secretly pay” for the work on his flat.
He described the move as “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal” and said the PM “almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations if conducted in the way he intended”.
No 10 has refused to say whether the prime minister initially received a loan to cover the costs, but Downing Street has insisted the prime minister “acted in accordance with the appropriate codes of conduct and electoral law”.
Refusing to answer questions on the flat at the Covid press conference, Mr Hancock said: “It is important that there are questions, and there were endless questions in the House of Commons earlier on some of the issues that you raise, and you will have seen the appointment of Lord Geidt earlier.
“But you have also got to concentrate on the big things that really matter”
The UK Electoral Commission was established in 2001.
The watchdog monitors whether the rules are being followed and has powers to ensure they are enforced.
As well as being able to refer investigations to the police, it can hand out its own sanctions under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.
It can issue investigation notices, disclosure orders and can carry out interviews – as well as impose fines of up to £20,000, which can increase if payments are late.
Chinese intercepted 7,200 penis shipment from Nigeria is false—-AFP Fact Check.
“This article surfaced about a year after AFP Fact Check debunked a different story from the same satirical website, whose slogan is “facts don’t matter”.
AFP Fact Check found that the recent article from WNDR was shared online by several social media accounts known for promoting the activities of Nigeria’s separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
The Biafra separatist group has been pushing for an independent state in southeastern Nigeria since 1970, which has resulted in repeated clashes with Nigeria’s security forces and heightened tensions in the region.
SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) is the disbanded Nigerian police unit accused of extrajudicial killings. DSS (Department of State Services) refers to Nigeria’s secret police.
“If there is any proof needed for this allegation…this is it….Security Agencies In Nigeria Esp SARS Unit Funded by the British Are Predators!” the caption continues.
WNDR’s story was also published on WhatsApp and Instagram, as well as on Twitter. Twitter user Savn Daniel previously shared a claim about the supply of French weapons to Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram that AFP Fact Check debunked.
This recent article has also circulated in other African countries, including Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“However, the entire story is fabricated”, the AFP Fact Check revealed.
The World News Daily Report is a satirical website, which it explains in a disclaimer in its “About Us” section.
In the disclaimer section of the satirical website, it says “all characters appearing in the articles in this website – even those based on real people – are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any persons, living, dead, or undead is purely a miracle.”
AFP Fact Check ran a Bing reverse image search and found the picture in a 2020 report on the website of China’s customs agency. The report details a joint customs operations interception of 820 kilograms of pangolin scales that were smuggled into the country.
Screenshot of the website of Chinese customs, taken on April 12, 2021 states
“Customs seizes suspected smuggled pangolin scales at a logistics warehouse,” reads the Chinese caption of the photo translated into English.
Another reverse image search of the other image in the WNDR article led to a photo of four uniformed men that was published through stock photography agency Alamy on April 15, 2019.
“Vice Minister of the General Administration of Customs of China (GAC) Hu Wei (2nd L) speaks at a press conference in Beijing, capital of China, April 15, 2019,” reads the caption on the photo without identifying the other three people.
Furthermore, AFP’s journalist in Hong Kong confirmed that none of the names plaques in front of the four Chinese officials read “Li Wu”, who was identified as the customs spokesman in the satirical article.
As of April 13, 2021, the spokesman for the General Administration of Customs of China is Li Kuiwen, according to a Chinese state-owned Xinhua news agency.
The Washington Post describes the World News Daily Report as a website that “delights in inventing items about foreigners, often Muslims, having sex with or killing animals”
The website carries this disclaimer: “WNDR assumes however all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and for the fictional nature of their content. All characters appearing in the articles in this website even those based on real people are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any persons, living, dead, or undead is purely a miracle.”
Twitter dumps Nigeria —–sites African operations headquarters in Ghana
The Twitter Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder, Jack Dorsey, confirmed this on Monday, saying, “Twitter is now present on the continent. Thank you, Ghana, and Nana Akufo Addo.”
“The choice of Ghana as Headquarters for Twitter’s Africa operations is excellent news. The government and Ghana welcome very much this announcement and the confidence reposed in our country,” Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo also tweeted on Monday.
In a release, Twitter reinstated that its mission is to serve the public conversation, and it’s essential, for the world and for Twitter, to increase the number of people who feel comfortable participating in it.
It said, “Today, in line with our growth strategy, we’re excited to announce that we are now actively building a team in Ghana.
“As a champion for democracy, Ghana is a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet, of which Twitter is also an advocate.
“Whenever we enter new markets, we work hard to ensure that we are not just investing in the talent that we hire, but also investing in local communities and the social fabric that supports them.
“We have already laid foundations through partnerships with Amref Health Africa in Kenya, Afrochella in Ghana, Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) in Nigeria, and The HackLab Foundation in Ghana
“We still have much to learn but we are excited to listen, learn, and engage. Public conversation is essential to solving problems, building shared ideas, and pushing us all forward together. We can’t wait for the next step on that journey.”
Egypt holds Even Given over Suez canal blockage —-seeks $1bn compensation from shipowner
“We hope for a speedy agreement,” he said, adding that the “minute they agree to compensation, the vessel will be allowed to move.”
Rabie said that Egyptian authorities would demand $1 billion to cover the costs of freeing the vessel.
The figure will cover the expense of the equipment and machinery used to clear the way, damage to the canal itself by the dredging, and compensate around 800 people who worked to release the 200,000-ton ship, Rabei said.
According to London-based financial firm Revenitiv, the Egyptian state lost transit fees worth $95 million because of the blockage.
It is also still unclear who will pay for Egypt’s demand for compensation.
The 1,300-foot Ever Given made headlines on March 23 when an unexpected wind storm caused it to steer off course and get lodged in the sandbanks of the Suez Canal, disrupting global trade. It was freed six days later.
The ship, its cargo, and the 25-person Indian crew of sailors will remain at anchor in Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake until the investigation is over. Earlier this month, authorities told Insider that the crew of the ship is safe and will continue getting paid.
Rabie said that he would prefer to settle the matter of compensation outside of court, although he didn’t rule out a lawsuit.
“We could agree on a certain compensation, or it goes to court,” he said, according to CNBC. “If they decide to go to court, then the ship should be held.”
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