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Boris Johnson broke the rules by being evasive on hedge fund links

Boris Johnson broke the rules by being evasive on hedge fund links

 


Lord Pickles, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Professional Appointments (Acoba), wrote to Mr Johnson and Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden warning them of the breach.

It comes after the former Conservative prime minister failed to clarify his relationship with a company called Merlyn Advisors, a hedge fund.

Mr Johnson reportedly met Mr Maduro alongside Merlyn Advisors co-founder Maarten Petermann in February.

Lord Pickles wrote in his letter to Mr Dowden: Acoba has repeatedly asked Mr Johnson to clarify his relationship with Merlyn Advisors.

Following the 2017 general elections
Lord Pickles is chair of the Advisory Committee on Professional Appointments (Victoria Jones/PA)

He did not do so, nor did he deny media reports that he was working with Merlyn Advisors on a non-contractual basis.

Government rules state that former ministers must not accept new jobs or appointments for two years after leaving public office without prior advice from Acoba.

In correspondence dating back to March 18, the watchdog contacted Mr Johnson's office to ask him to detail his relationship with Merlyn Advisors following media reports of his visit to South America.

He responded that he had no contractual relationship with the company, and in subsequent correspondence stated that he had not been paid for any meetings in Venezuela.

He added: I was extensively briefed by HMA (Her Majesty's Ambassador) Caracas before the meeting and took the opportunity to lobby for democracy, human rights and support for Ukraine.

Lord Pickles raised concerns about the fact that the trip had been paid for by Merlyn Advisers and about the nature of Mr Johnson's activities for the company, even though he was not under any formal contract.

The peer warned: If this is the case, there is a reasonable apprehension that you are acting in a role that would be inconsistent with Acoba's guidelines on one-off speaking engagements, which do not provide blanket approval for ad hoc consultative work .

Oliver Dowden's speech at Chatham House
Lord Pickles has written to Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden about the matter (Yui Mok/PA)

Mr Johnson did not respond to further questions from Lord Pickles about the nature of the meetings or his relationship with Merlyn, and said he believed there was clearly no need to consult or research Acoba about work.

But the head of the watchdog disagreed and said there remained a reasonable apprehension that you were acting for Merlyn Advisors in a role that would be considered consultancy work, for which Acoba would have expected that he asks for advice.

He added: Given the evasive nature of your responses, your inability to answer the specific questions asked of you or to provide context of your relationship with Merlyn Advisors, the committee found that there was a violation of government professional appointment rules. .

Lord Pickles then reported the former Prime Minister's actions to Mr Dowden, who is also responsible for overseeing the Cabinet Office, the department which oversees the machinery of government.

He admitted that little action could be taken against Mr Johnson because the rules no longer have relevance in the modern world and are inapplicable to candidates determined to ignore them.

The Government should reform the rules as it promised in July 2023, Lord Pickles said, to ensure those who break them face consequences.

A spokesperson for Mr. Johnson declined to comment.

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