Tory Barwell and his £10,000 donation from the oligarchs

Croydon’s Tories have failed to answer questions over what exactly was expected in return when their MP received a couple of cash payments from donors with links to Putin’s Russia. By STEVEN DOWNES

Gavin Barwell, now Lord Barwell, received donations worth £10,000 when he was the Conservative MP for Croydon Central, cash paid  from a business whose directors have strong links to Russia, Inside Croydon can reveal.

The donations were made from a UK-registered company whose directors included two oligarchs who had made their mega-fortunes in Putin’s Russia, including one who has been accused of “siphoning” off millions of oil money.

The donations to the Croydon MP are by no means the biggest among the many huge payments to elected Conservative MPs from Russians or those with links to Russia over the past decade.

But with Russian tanks on the outskirts of Kyiv as Russian President Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine enters its second week, the money paid to Barwell appears significant today because of his later role as the influential chief adviser to the Prime Minister, Theresa May, at the time of the Salisbury poisonings, when the Tory government ignored calls for tougher action against the oligarchs.

Barwell has often been dismissive of any suggestion that action should be taken against Russian oligarchs using their vast wealth to buy influence in this country.

Well-funded: Baron Barwell

Today, the Croydon Conservatives refused to answer a series of questions about the former MP’s own dealings with the Russians.

According to records held by the Electoral Commission, Barwell received two payments, each of £5,000, from Offshore Group Newcastle Ltd.

The payments were made within a couple of months of each other, on December 18 2014, and on February 24, 2015. The money may have been used by Barwell and his parliamentary team towards his campaign at the 2015 General Election, when he retained his seat by just 165 votes.

You can view the Electoral Commission official record here.

And here.

As Inside Croydon asked in 2015 when we first reported this apparent generosity to a Conservative MP, we wondered “what a Tory government whip has been doing” for a company based in Newcastle and which specialises in kitting out offshore rigs?

It was never meant as a rhetorical question, but Barwell has never offered any explanation.

Generous donor: Alexander Temerko on a chummy night out with Boris Johnson

The Conservative Party has repeatedly refused all calls for it and its MPs to return around £2million-worth of donations to donors with strong links to Putin’s Russia. A spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week, “As you know, donations are all properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission.

“But I would make the point that there are people in this country of Russian origin who are British citizens, and many are critics of Putin.

“It’s wrong and discriminatory to tar them all with the same brush.”

So, while acknowledging that all the donations made to Lord Barwell were entirely above board and legal – none were made from people outside the UK, and both of the donations in question were from a UK-registered company – let’s have a closer look at the people behind the scenes at that very generous, and properly registered, British business.

Barwell’s donor, Offshore Group Newcastle, has been reported as having paid £100,000 to the Tories towards their 2019 General Election campaign. They must have thought they were getting the government that some of their directors couldn’t vote for.

Easy money: the second hefty wedge bunged at Barwell by Offshore Group Newcastle

Companies House records for the company lists two oligarchs who both made their riches in Putin’s Russia: Alexander Temerko and Viktor Mikhailovich Fedotov.

We previously highlighted the murky connection between Barwell and Temerko seven years ago.

Temerko made his pile of loot as the head of Russkoe Oruzhie, an arms supplier to the Russian military. Temerko became a British citizen in 2011. He told the Financial Times that his donations to the Conservatives “are aimed at building support for a coherent industrial policy within government”.

He also described himself as a “vocal champion of UK energy security and independence”.

High roller: Temerko is said to have personally donated £0.74m to the Tory Party

Temerko was also a director of Aquind Ltd, another firm which features prominently in making payments of tens of thousands of pounds to various Tory MPs – for example, Jeremy Hunt, a Surrey MP and former health minister, received more than £70,000 from Aquind between 2019 and 2021. Cushty.

Aquind was seeking government approval to build an electricity interconnector between Britain and mainland Europe (“energy security and independence”), but we’ll come back to that later.

His co-director at Offshore Group Newcastle Ltd, Fedotov, was the subject of Guardian and BBC Panorama investigations last year. They unearthed in the “Pandora Papers” that Fedotov secretly co-owned a company accused of participating in a massive corruption scheme.

Fedotov is described as a “recluse” who now lives in a Hampshire mansion.

The investigation showed that he had made at least £72million from “an offshore financial structure that appears to have funnelled profits from the accused Russian company via multiple tax havens”.

It was alleged that in the mid-2000s, Fedotov and two other men made fortunes from “siphoning funds from the Russian state pipeline monopoly Transneft”.

Cleared by Putin: Viktor Fedotov

Transneft is a company in which Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club, had a close interest in when he was building his own pile of money in the Russian oil business.

Fedotov’s lawyers strongly denied all accusations of fraud when the Panorama and Guardian reports appeared last year.

The accusations were based on a confidential Transneft report which, after it was leaked, was considered by senior Russian officials. One of those to pass judgement on Fedotov and the alleged fraud was the then prime minister, Vladimir Putin. Putin decided that no criminal offences had been committed. So that’s all right then…

Ukrainian born Temerko has said recently that he is no friend of Putin.

The way one of his big business deals has gone recently, he might not be much of a friend of Boris Johnson and his Tory chums any more, either, after personally donating £740,000 to the Conservatives.

Aquind, of which he was a director, wanted government approvals to develop a cross-Channel electricity supply line. Aquind also donated at least £400,000 to the Conservatives.

But in January this year, the Conservative government turned down the Aquind scheme. It was around that time that Barwell’s generous donors, Offshore Group Newcastle, was dissolved as a company.

It is hard not to consider in all of this that money does not, to some degree, buy influence, or loyalty.

The poisoning in Salisbury in 2018 of Sergei Skripal, the former Russian military intelligence officer and double agent, and his daughter, Yulia, was one of the crises that confronted Theresa May when she was Prime Minister.

At May’s side at that time, as her chief of staff, was Gavin Barwell.

‘To be honest, Theresa, I’d lay off those oligarch geezers… they’re decent coves’: was never said by Gavin Barwell to Theresa May. Probably

Could it be because of those generous donations he received from a Russian-linked business that Barwell, in his self-serving memoir, Chief of Staff, chose to pour scorn on Jeremy Corbyn, the then Labour leader, for daring to suggest that tighter control should be made on Russian oligarchs’ donations to the Conservative Party?

What exactly was oligarch-funded Barwell’s advice to the Prime Minister about oligarch funding at this time of international crisis? Barwell doesn’t say in his book.

Instead, according to Barwell, in an interview with the Institute for Government in 2019, Downing Street could “be very proud” of the way it handled the Skripal assassination attempt by Russian agents carried out on British soil.

“I think the way that we responded to the attempted murder of the Skripal family in Salisbury and built an international coalition to hold the Russian government to account. I think we can be very proud of that,” Barwell said.

Today, Britain’s feeble response to that blatant abuse of international law and sovereign territory can be seen for what it was: just the latest flexing of Putin’s power, a forewarning of worse incursions to come. And one where, if the right action had been taken at the time, the invasion of Ukraine may have been avoided.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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4 Responses to Tory Barwell and his £10,000 donation from the oligarchs

  1. Barwell’s 2021 book “Chief of Staff – Notes from Downing Street”, in which he publishes his memoirs as Theresa May’s right-hand man, recalls the time the subject of Russian donations was raised in Parliament. This was on 26 March 2018 in the debate on National Security and Russia.

    It followed Putin’s attempted assassination of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury on 4 March 2018, using the nerve agent Novichok. The Russian Skripals survived, but a British woman, Dawn Sturgess later died. Her partner, Charlie Rowley and a policeman, DS Nick Bailey, were severely injured.

    Barwell noted crossly that in response to Theresa May’s hesitant remarks in the House, the then leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, “focused on Russian oligarchs’ donations to the Conservative Party”.

    What an odd thing for Barwell to focus on. You won’t find one word in his book about the donations he’d received 3 years before then, or the people who made the donations or the companies or projects they were involved with. Not one.

    Barwell misrepresented what Corbyn said. Here’s what Hansard recorded:

    “I was talking about Russian oligarchs and their power. As the Prime Minister will know, it is not just the Labour party pressing for action. Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition party leader who was barred from standing for the Russian presidency and has faced down intimidation of him, his family and his supporters at the hands of the Russian state, has made clear that the most important thing the UK could do to curb the power and punish the actions of Vladimir Putin is to hit his billionaire allies in their pockets. I hope the Prime Minister will listen to that advice.”

    Theresa May didn’t listen to that advice, and like Jeremy Corbyn, is no longer a leader. Alexei Navalny is now in jail on trumped up charges.

    Croydon South MP, Chris Philp, made a useful contribution that day. He asked, “Given the catalogue of outrages that the Prime Minister has outlined, could she confirm to the House that the measures to be considered by Foreign Ministers in due course will include the possibility of sanctions either against the wider Russian economy or against individuals close to the Putin regime?”

    Theresa May replied “We have asked Foreign Ministers to look at what steps they think it is important for us to take. We, as the UK, have already been at the forefront of the economic sanctions that have been put in place in relation to Russia following the illegal annexation of Crimea…”.

    Who was the Foreign Secretary at that time? Boris Johnson. Unlike Theresa May, not only did he not listen to Corbyn’s advice, he turned it on its head. Donations worth almost £1.9m have been made by Russian oligarchs, either to the Tory party HQ or to Tory MPs, since he entered No 10.

    When Croydon Tories call round to ask for your vote on 5 May, remember who is sponsoring them and what their sponsors are doing right now in Ukraine: bombing civilians in their homes and destroying democracy.

  2. John Harvey says:

    This item appeared in my inbox on the same morning as one from Companies House advising about their increased efforts to police offshore companies retrospectively. Interesting coincidence

  3. Sadly what we have seen from our government is a sluggish and seemingly reluctant attempt to sanction some of the paymasters and businesses of Putin’s ruthless state fascism. In contrasting this with the speedy action in terms of both sanctions against Russia and the open reception of the Ukrainian victims that we see in mainland Europe, then it’s clear that the spectre of vested interests in our ruling elite raises its ugly head, There can be little other explanation for giving these greedy thieves enough time to hide their ill gotten gains away.

  4. derekthrower says:

    Just yet more evidence of the moral and intellectual bankrupt that is Baron Barwell. People are ridiculing the knighthood provided for the risible Gavin Williamson, but Barwell is just as a big marker of how devalued the honours system is.

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