Former Tory chair joins firm part-owned by sanctioned Russians

"It makes yet another mockery of Rishi Sunak's promise of professionalism, integrity and accountability at all levels"

Former Tory chairman Brandon Lewis has come under some scathing criticism after taking up a six-figure job advising a company part-owned by two sanctioned Russian oligarchs.

Lewis will join investment firm LetterOne, founded by billionaires Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven, who now hold 49% of shares in the company.

LetterOne, chaired by Mervyn Davies, a former banker and ex-Labour government minister, says it is now entirely separate from Fridman and Aven, who were sanctioned in 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The company has investments in brands such as the health food chain Holland & Barrett.

Although Fridman and Aven are still major shareholders, their stakes were frozen after the imposition of UK and EU sanctions after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The latest revelations show once more how despite sounding tough on Russia and Putin’s regime, the Tory party continues to have links to Russia, with the party continuing to receive funds from Russia linked donors.

Anneliese Dodds, the chair of the Labour party, said it was “totally unacceptable” for Lewis to advise a firm “owned by sanctioned Russian oligarchs”.

“It makes yet another mockery of Rishi Sunak’s promise of professionalism, integrity and accountability at all levels,” she said.

According to the MPs register of interest, Lewis already has four other jobs – one of which is unpaid – earning him £150,000 a year on top of his £86,584 MP salary.

Commenting on the news of Lewis’ latest appointment, LFF columnist Prem Sikka tweeted: “MPs for Sale: Brandon Lewis MP, former Justice Minister & chair of the Tory party, takes £100k consultancy  advising sanctioned Russian oligarchs.

“Already has four other £150k jobs; plus £87k+exps MP salary. He voted for austerity, wage/benefit cuts.”

Lewis has said after his appointment: “LetterOne has travelled a huge distance since Putin’s abhorrent invasion of Ukraine. It is now fully separate from its sanctioned founders and focused on investments that are vital for society as well as being one of the biggest corporate donors of aid to Ukraine.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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