Data leak shines fresh light on Norfolk MP's donor

Brandon Lewis MP

Brandon Lewis MP - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

A data leak revealing the financial dealings of some of the world’s wealthiest people has shed fresh light on a donor to a Norfolk MP. 

The Pandora Papers is a leak of almost 12 million documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and examined by more than 600 journalists in 117 countries.

In the UK, the offshore deals and accounts investigation has been led by BBC Panorama and the Guardian. 

One of the people named in the leak is Lubov Chernukhin, the largest female donor in the history of British politics, who has given more than £2.1m to the Conservative party. 

Since February 2019, Mrs Chernukhin has donated £34,500 to Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, including a transfer of £10,000 in May of this year. 

Mrs Chernukhin is the wife of Vladimir Chernukhin - a former government minister under Vladimir Putin in Russia. 

Evidence in the Pandora Papers reportedly suggests that Mrs Chernukhin’s wealth comes, at least in part, from her husband. 

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One email describes her as being "financially supported by her husband".

One document also shows that Mr Chernukhin's offshore company loaned £4m to his wife's UK company.

Mr and Mrs Chernukhin have both held British citizenship for several years, making Mrs Chernukhin’s donations completely legal. 

The Chernukhins’ lawyers have said it is not accepted that any of Mrs Chernukhin’s political donations have been funded by improper means or affected by the influence of anyone else.

They have also denied allegations stemming from the Pandora Papers that Mr Chernukhin abused his position as the government-appointed head of a state bank to further his private business interests.

Mr Lewis defended accepting the donations in July 2020. 

“I would absolutely defend the right of any British citizen… To play their full part in our democracy,” said Mr Lewis.

“That doesn’t just mean voting, that means supporting, if they want to, political parties and political candidates, and I’m very proud of the fact that, as a country, we allow British citizens to do that.”

Mr Lewis has been approached for comment on whether his view of the donations has changed in light of the Pandora Papers, but he has not yet responded. 

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