Press release 16th May 2023

Major donor to Conservative Party named as key part of international money laundering scheme

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16 May 2023 - Responding to revelations from the BBC and Evening Standard that Javad Marandi, a major donor to the Conservative Party, has been named in connection with court proceedings as a key part of an international money laundering operation, Duncan Hames, Director of Policy and Programmes at Transparency International UK, said:

“The lifting of reporting restrictions for this significant case are long-overdue, and reinforce the importance of open justice. These revelations give us further insight into how the Azerbaijani Laundromat operated and who benefited from it. Given what we now know, this case raises serious questions about the relationship between money and power in our democracy. This isn’t just a Westminster storm in a teacup, it is a national security issue.

“It is alarming that such a substantial donor to a British political party was a person of importance in an industrial-scale money laundering scheme. There are serious ethical and legal questions about the source of the funds used to secure access to those in the highest of public office. To be deserving of the public’s trust, political parties should go beyond what is simply required of them in law and undertake better due diligence on their donors. Failing to check if a benefactor is of good standing poses a serious reputational risk, so political parties cannot just rely on a cursory glance that their patrons are on the electoral roll.

“While members of big donor clubs may be motivated simply by the privilege of meeting our politicians, these groups give the appearance of something much more influential. According to our research, the public think wealthy individuals have far too much say in politics and that more needs to be done to address this. To reduce the perception and reality of cash being exchanged for favours, we need to end political parties’ reliance on a small group of large, wealthy donors.”

Mr Marandi strongly denies wrongdoing and isn't subject to criminal sanction.

Notes to editors

  • According to Figures from the Electoral Commission, Javad Marandi donated a total of £663,800 to the Conservative Party between August 2014 and November 2020.
  • Four of Mr Marandi’s donations were big enough to secure him access to successive UK Prime Ministers, either through the Conservative Party’s Leaders Group (now defunct) or Advisory Board.
  • Membership of the Leader’s Group was £50,000, and the Financial Times reports the cost of the Advisory Board is now £250,000. Citing a source close to Mr Marandi, The Times reported that despite having been invited to the Advisory Board meetings several times, he only attended once.
  • In 2011, the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) recommended a package of reforms to help reduce the risk of corruption caused by pressure on political parties to raise funds. It proposed an annual £10,000 cap on how much any individual or organisation could donate to a political party, alongside a 15 per cent reduction in how much political parties can spend at national elections to reduce the demand for funding.
  • The UK recently sunk to its worst-ever performance in Transparency International’s global Corruption Perceptions Index. The Index uses surveys of experts and business executives to assess how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be.Between 2006-07, former senior civil servant, Sir Hayden Philips, tried to broker cross-party talks on party funding reform, which ended without consensus.
  • According to UK respondents to TI’s Global Corruption Barometer survey, 76 per cent of respondents thought wealthy individuals often use their influence on government for their own interests and there should be stricter rules to prevent this.