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Theresa May condemned for ‘business as usual’ after Conservatives accept 100,000 from former Putin ally’s wife

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The Labour Party has accused Theresa May of breaking her promisesand continuing ‘business as usual’ with Russia after the Conservative Party accepted another 100,000 donation from the wife of a former minister in Vladimir Putin’s government.

Lubov Chernukhin, whose ex-deputy finance ministerhusband, Vladimir,has been described inthepastas a Putin crony, donated112,500 to the Conservative party during the last three months, bringing the total amount to626,500 since 2012.

The Tories amassed 4.7m in the first quarter of 2018, three times as much asLabourreceived, according to new Electoral Commission data published on Wednesday.

TheChernukhins hit the headlines in 2014 when MsChernukhin, whose husband Vladimir was appointed Russian deputy finance minister in 2000, paid 160,000 to play tennis with David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

News of the donation will fuel fears of Russian influence in the Tory party, following calls for greater scrutiny on the origins of foreign wealth following the nerve agent attack onSergeiandYuliaSkirpal.

Russia-related donations to the Tory Party is the gift that keeps on giving, but there are serious questions to ask,” saidJon Trickett, shadow minister for the Cabinet Office.

“Despite repeated promises that the Prime Minister doesn’t want ‘business as usual’ with Russia, the Conservatives have accepted another 100,000 from the wife of a former minister in Putins Government.

After Boris Johnson was forced to admit he played in a tennis match with Lubov Chernukhin, he promised that checks on such donations would take place,” he added.

Theresa May needs to explain what checks have taken place, and why her party has accepted money from individuals with links to Putins regime, despite her promises.

The Conservatives have received 3m from Russian-linked oligarchs since 2010, including 820,000 in the 20 months prior to March 2018.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour was given1.49min donations, while the Liberal Democrats reported gifts of 564,135.

The Uniteunion was Labour’s biggest donor with 450,027, followed by the GMB with 318,673.

Renew, the newly-established centrist party aiming to stop Brexit, collected 111,671 – while the Women’s Equality Party received 10,000 and the Green Party 1,800.

UKIP did not register any donations.

The data shows Ms May’s party received the lion’s shareof donations reported by all political parties.

The Tories’ biggest donor was a 582,358 bequest from Gerda Winder, followed by 500,000 from businessman Ehud Sheleg.

A woman of the same name as Ms Winder died aged 86 in Colchester in April last year.

Mr Sheleg is an Israeli-born businessman who reportedly could soon become the party’s new treasurer.

He is the owner of the Halcyon art gallery in London and has recently become a major Tory benefactor.

He gave the party 250,000 ahead of last year’s snap election.

Ms Chernukhins donations are also among the largest.

Thelavish lifestyle she and her husband leadwas illustratedduring a legal dispute, when it emergedMr Chernukhinhad asked a wealth management firm to buy a 13.5m private jet that was never delivered.

Mr Chernukhin was on good terms with Vladimir Putin in the early years of his presidency, according to The Times.

He was on the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Trade and then served as deputy finance minister from 2000 to 2002.

In 2004 he was appointed chairman of a state-owned bank by presidential decree and awarded an Order of Honour from Mr Putin in 2004.

However, he was then dismissed from the role for for his loyalty to Mikhail Kasyanov, a vocal critic of Mr. Putin, and moved to the UK with his family some time later.

In 2012, the Electoral Commission declared Ms Chernukhin an impermissible donor before the regulatory body subsequently allowed her to donate 626,500 over the next six years.

As Mr Johnson told Andrew Marr earlier this year, Ms Chernukhin is a British citizen has every right to exercise her democratic rights and donate to a political party.

When Mr Marrcited fears that the Conservative Party have been “taking far too much Russian money”, Mr Johnson said: “If there is evidence of gross corruption in the way the gentleman obtained his wealth .. then it is possible for our law enforcement to deprive him of his wealth.”

Chris Bryant, Labour MP and vice-chairman of Parliaments all-party group on Russia, said at the time: The Prime Minister said quite categorically this week that we should be tackling Putins cronies.What could be more of a crony that Putins former deputy finance minister?

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “All donations to the Conservative party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with the law.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/conservative-party-russia-donations-putin-theresa-may-lubov-chernukhin-tory-a8375636.html

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