Beckenham’s Tory MP failed to register his arms trade link

South London Conservative MP Bob Stewart found to hold directorship of Luxembourg-registered consultancy with links to convicted criminal while he was a member of influential Commons Defence Committee

Undeclared: Bob Stewart MP admits he worked for Ksantex

Col Bob Stewart, the MP for Beckenham since 2010 and already under investigation for alleged racial abuse, is now accused of having failed to declare a business directorship when he was a member of the Commons defence select committee.

An investigation by Open Democracy and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project found that Stewart failed to declare his role at a Luxembourg-registered firm that was controlled by a controversial Azerbaijani businessman.

“It would be difficult to describe something which is more of a conflict of interest than this,” Tommy Sheppard, the SNP MP and former select committee member, was quoted as saying by Open Democracy.

Last week, Stewart was charged with a public order offence over an alleged racially aggravated incident involving a civil rights protestor outside the Bahraini Embassy in December.

These latest allegations centre on what Open Democracy reports as “Stewart’s hitherto secret directorship of Ksantex SARL, a provider of defence equipment and advice, between February 2015 and July 2017”.

The investigative website reports: “During this time, [Stewart] was a member of the House of Commons defence select committee, which is tasked with overseeing the work of government on defence issues.”

Before becoming an MP, Stewart was a career soldier, serving in Northern Ireland and Bosnia, and being awarded the DSO.

Sleaze-buster: Bob Stewart campaigning with Martin Bell (left) in 1997

His first dabble in politics came in 1997 when he helped his friend, TV journalist Martin Bell, when he was standing for Parliament in Tatton as an independent.

Stewart was alongside Bell when they were confronted by Neil Hamilton, then the sitting Conservative Member of Parliament for the constituency. Bell was standing as “the man in the white suit” against Hamilton as a result of accusations that the Tory MP had accepted money for promoting causes in Parliament.

Bell gave Stewart the credit for defining his criticism of Hamilton as admitting to “conduct unbecoming”. In other words, sleaze.

The Hamilton case caused a storm at the time, but appears to have had very little long-term impact on the conduct of some MPs.

Today, Members of Parliament are required to declare all relevant outside interests on the Register of Members’ Financial Interests within one month of election. Any changes to their interests need to be logged within 28 days.

The register is there, according to Parliament, “to provide information about any financial interest which an MP has, or any benefit which they receive, which others might reasonably consider to influence his or her actions or words as an MP”.

It was after a failure to declare all his interests to the parallel register for the House of Lords that Gavin Barwell, the former Tory MP for Croydon Central, recently withdrew from the Upper House. Four months later, “Lord” Barwell is still on indefinite leave of absence from Parliament.

Luxembourg job: MP Stewart says he had no idea the company worked in the military trade, nor that it was controlled by a convicted crook

Yesterday, Open Democracy reported that in the case of the Beckenham MP: “Stewart failed to declare his position in the two and a half years that he was a director or at any stage since.”

Stewart told Open Democracy that he believed he had registered his interest in the group of companies in 2012.

Thirteen years ago, Stewart declared a consultancy arrangement with a company called VES Consultancy (UK) Ltd, where he earned £3,000 per month for the “provision of leadership/ planning training and advice”. Stewart’s declaration said the work lasted for one year, from July 2010.

VES Consultancy was dissolved last year. According to Open Democracy, it “didn’t have any obvious corporate links to Ksantex SARL”.

Open Democracy says it is “unclear” why Stewart considers them to be part of a group of companies.

Stewart’s register declarations have no mention of his two-year directorship with Ksantex SARL.

Stewart told the website that his role at Ksantex “was actually a consultant/non-executive director”.

He added: “I advised on business leadership/planning based on my 2009 book Leadership under Pressure which was all about business. But I was not in any way involved in running the company or any decisions it made. I was totally unsighted on decision-making.”

Stewart also claimed that he did not know Ksantex was involved in defence work. “At the time I believed the business of the group was about construction and in no way defence-related.”

A French-Azerbaijani businessman called Khagani Bashirov, who served a four-month jail sentence in relation to an investigation into the disappearance of funds from the International Bank of Azerbaijan, does link the two companies.

Bashirov confirmed to Open Democracy that he controlled both VES Consultancy and Ksantex.

Bashirov’s activities in respect of vanishing Azerbaijani money had brought him to the attention of the National Crime Agency in the UK.

Bashirov told Open Democracy that he met MP Stewart “once or twice” and hired him to help with his consultancy business. “I wanted to start providing economic consultancy services to my clients and the presence of such a consultant could be a great help to me,” he told Open Democracy.

Stewart confirmed to Open Democracy that he had met Bashirov. “I believe I met him socially twice during my consultancy and we certainly did not discuss business,” Stewart is quoted as saying.

Collar felt: Stewart is already under investigation by the Met over allegations of racial abuse from December

“Stewart told Open Democracy he had no knowledge of Bashirov’s ownership of VES or links to Ksantex SARL and said he would have declined the consultancy if he had known and been aware of Bashirov’s jail time,” the website reports.

They report that it is unclear if Stewart was paid by Ksantex.

Bashirov said Ksantex had never sold or bought military equipment but is “a consulting company in the field of civil and military radars”. He confirmed that Stewart had been registered in Luxembourg as a non-executive director of the company.

Breaches of the rules by MPs can be referred to the parliamentary standards commissioner, whose work is overseen by the committee on standards – the same committee which last week issued such a withering finding against liar Boris Johnson.

OPen Democracy reports: “Although Stewart hid his role with Ksantex from Parliament, there was no hiding his parliamentary connections from Ksantex. ‘House of Commons’ was listed as his address on his director’s registration form in Luxembourg.

“The connections between Stewart and the company also went deeper than his own directorship. His business associate and now parliamentary staffer, Reza Tabrizi, took up a directorship with Ksantex on the same day Stewart did, remaining at the firm until they both resigned in July 2017.

“And Stewart’s brother, Andrew, was a director and minority shareholder of Ksantex’s UK subsidiary between 2013 and 2016. He is a former sales representative for the French multinational defence firm Thales in the UK.”

Read more: Tory MP hid directorship at defence firm while sitting on defence committee

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4 Responses to Beckenham’s Tory MP failed to register his arms trade link

  1. James Seabrook says:

    As politicians are elected on some kind of basis of trust (you’d think) I would hope they would set a good example for the rest of us to follow.

    As Carol Voderman said recently, in her life time so far of just over 60 years she has never seen such a corrupt Parliament as that of today. Honestly it’s little wonder the fabric of society in this country is disintegrating so quickly when a large part of the government shows how disrespectful of society it is.

    There is a phrase “with power comes responsibility”. It’s not easy to live up to. But we all need a government who plays by the rules to give the rest of us a chance.

  2. Ian Kierans says:

    Well that is a surprise. Colonel Stewart DSO (Retired) is many things but I would not associate the words dishonest with his behaviour and career. It does seem a bit out of character to be honest. Not disputing that he did not declare or that he was a director – but that he did not do a background check before working for the Company. More to the point that the services did not do one also, and advise him, as he was in a position of authority In NATO prior to retirement.

    Maybe more to that saga than is apparant. But if he has VES on the list last year and it was dissolved but he carried on doing the same work with the same person but it was filed now under Ksantex I can see why there was a hiccup and it could be more of an administrative matter.
    But Bashirov gave an interview and named an advisor in public – sounds like someone got thrown under a bus purposefully to be honest and a message was sent.

    Still we live in interesting times

    Either Mr Stewart has changed his spots and has entered the world of alternate behaviours – as people do later in years caused by old age issues and illness meds.
    Or he was always so – in which case that calls into question all his previous career including in Northern Ireland and Bosnia.

    Perhaps some silly analyst forgot to do an impact assessment on some of the strategic thinking?
    Does Ksantex provide services to particular Governments and/or Government approved companies?

    Is this more contrived mischeif from the north east?

  3. derekthrower says:

    He has always been a complete embarrassment.

    • Ian Kierans says:

      A better soldier than a civilian in a modern society. But as Bosnia Bob a completely different person and what was beneficial in a difficult arena.

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