Fresh questions over link between oligarch and Norfolk MP's donor
- Credit: Richard Townshend Photography
A Norfolk MP is facing fresh questions over a donation from a Russian-born businesswoman, after she was reportedly linked with a sanctioned oligarch.
Lubov Chernukhin, who has in recent years donated some £34,500 to Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, is named on a document seen by the BBC as a director of a company owned by Suleiman Kerimov - a man known to be close to president Vladimir Putin.
Mrs Chernukhin is the wife of Vladimir Chernukhin, a multimillionaire businessman who served under Putin as a junior minister, but later fled Russia.
She is the largest female donor in the history of British politics and has given more than £2.1m to the Conservative party.
Both she and her husband hold British citizenship, making her political donations entirely legal.
Mr Lewis has previously defended accepting the donations, saying that he “would absolutely defend the right of any British citizen, including the people who have donated to myself and others, to play their full part in our democracy."
But the latest claims from the BBC, suggesting a business connection between her and Mr Kerimov has raised fresh questions.
Asked about the documents seen by the BBC, lawyers for the Chernukhins said "Mrs Chernukhin does not recall consenting in writing to being a director" of Mr Kerimov’s company and questioned whether the documents were "forgeries and/or may have been manipulated".
Mr Lewis’s office was approached for comment on whether the fresh revelations had changed his view of the donations, but there was no response.
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Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s Labour opposition leader, Trevor Wainwright, said that if the allegations were true, then the money Mr Lewis has received from Mrs Chernukhin should be put towards supporting Ukrainians, in light of Russia's invasion of their eastern European neighbour.
“Reports of this money have been about a long time and there were always concerns about its origins,” he said.
“Certainly, if this allegation is proved to be true, then I think out of principle, the money that Brandon Lewis has received should actually be donated to a Ukrainian charity.”
Mrs Chernukhin is reported to be a member of a small "advisory board" of major donors with access to senior Conservative party members, including the prime minister.
In 2019, she paid £135,000 to attend a ladies' night dinner attended by then-prime minister Theresa May, and South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss.