Tory donor charged by US authorities over alleged role in Puerto Rico bribery scheme

Julio Herrera Velutini has given more than £500,000 to the Tories

Tory councillor

A Tory party donor who has donated more than £500,000 to the party since Boris Johnson became prime minister, has been charged over allegations that he illegally provided campaign donations to a former governor of Puerto Rico in a scheme to remove a senior banking regulator from his post.

The revelations have once more raised some serious questions for the Conservative Party and their fundraising.

Julio Herrera Velutini was charged with conspiracy, federal programs bribery and honest services wire fraud, for his alleged role in providing campaign funding to the former governor of Puerto Rico, Wanda Vázquez Garced, ahead of the US territory’s 2020 gubernatorial election.

The Financial Times reported: “Vázquez Garced was arrested on Thursday by the FBI and accused of accepting the bribes while in office. The indictment, filed on Wednesday, alleges Herrera Velutini wanted Vázquez Garced to help quash a probe into his Puerto Rico-based lender Bancredito, which is referred to as “the Bank” in the filing.”

Herrera Velutini and an advisor are accused of giving more than $300,000 to political consultants in support of Vázquez Garced’s campaign, and wanting a favour in return, which was the resignation of the then commissioner for the island’s financial regulator.

Vázquez Garced’s legal team said that she was “absolutely and totally innocent of all the charges against her” and planned to defend her case at trial.

The revelations once more raise serious questions for the Conservative Party over its fundraising activities. Last week we highlighted how Boris Johnson’s draft honours list includes the wife of a former Putin minister who has donated nearly £2million to the party.

Tory party co-chair Ben Elliot has also focused on donations from the mega rich. He has previously been accused of misusing his position as a trustee at the Victoria and Albert museum after it emerged that the Tory party held a fundraising dinner at the venue where tickets started at £1500.

Keir Starmer previously called on the Tories to sack Elliot for being “at the heart” of links between the party and Russian money.

Elliot is also co-owner of the firm Quintessentially, a “concierge” service for the super-wealthy that has counted many Russians among its clients, including reportedly Roman Abramovich, the former Chelsea owner.

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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