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.
David Nwamini, Ekweremadu accuser, seeks asylum in UK
” they will kill me if I come to Nigeria” — he pleads to court
The three were found guilty at the Old Bailey of conspiring to arrange the travel of a young man with a view to exploiting him for his body part.
The Ekweremadus’ 25-year-old daughter, Sonia, has a severe kidney disease. It was for her the donor was sourced and brought to the UK.
According to David, he was approached with an opportunity to work in the UK, which he had always dreamed of but never thought would happen.
“He (Dr Obina Obeta) did not tell me he brought me here for this reason. He did not tell me anything about this.
“I would have not agreed to any of this. My body is not for sale.
“I worry for my safety in Nigeria. Those people can do anything. I think they could arrest me or kill me in Nigeria.
“My plan now is to work and to get an education and to play football,” David said, adding that he does not want to claim compensation from the “bad people” as it would be “cursed and bad luck”.
He also said someone visited his father in Nigeria and asked the father to get him to drop the case.
Although it is lawful to donate a kidney, it becomes criminal if there is a reward.
The Ekweremadus were arrested on June 21 last year as they arrived at Heathrow Airport.
UK court shuns Nigeria, ECOWAS pleas as it sentences Ekweremadu to 10 years imprisonment for organ trafficking
Nigeria missing as UNCTAD lists top African countries in service exports.
Nigeria was not listed among the top five countries in Africa in service exports in 2021 as Egypt tops the list as announced by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in December.
Morocco followed Egypt in services exports then Ghana, South Africa, and Ethiopia.
Egypt also came third on the list of the top five countries regarding goods exports in Africa in 2021 by around $40 billion, achieving growth of around 60 percent year-on-year.
In maritime routes, Egypt was preceded by Morocco, South Africa, then Ghana, and Togo.
Earlier this month, Egypt announced a plan to develop Egyptian commodity exports to African countries to reach $15 billion during the coming few years.
Egypt’s exports to Africa have increased by 25.4 percent during Q1 2022 compared to Q1 2021, the Cabinet said in a statement in mid-December.
According to Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), Egypt’s exports to the African Union countries have reached more than $5.4 billion in 2021 compared to around $3.9 billion in 2020.
Libya, Sudan, Morocco, Algeria, and Kenya received more than 60 percent of Egyptian exports, according to CAPMAS.
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