The independent police watchdog has delayed revealing whether Boris Johnson will face a criminal misconduct probe into his friendship with Jennifer Arcuri until after the general election.
MPs and London assembly members were outraged by the decision, with some arguing the ruling had been ‘suppressed’ so it did not impact on the Prime Minister’s bid to be reelected.
The move was finalised at a private meeting last week, which saw officials from the Independent Office for Police Conduct hold the announcement into ‘possible criminality’ by the PM until after December 12.
MPs and London assembly members were outraged by the decision, with some arguing the ruling had been ‘suppressed’ so it did not impact on the Prime Minister’s (right, Ms Arcuri left) campaign
The allegations are in reference to Mr Johnson’s dealings with Ms Arcuri while he was Mayor of London and claims of a conflict of interest.
A source told the Observer the IOPC had been ready to reveal if it would investigate the PM after being asked to look into the matter by the Greater London Authority due to him being a mayor overseeing the police.
Mr Johnson has been asked directly if the pair had a sexual relationship when he was the married mayor and she was a young entrepreneur who was given public money and preferential treatment.
He repeatedly dodged the affair question but when he was asked about misusing public money, he firmly answered ‘no’.
The move was finalised at a private meeting last week, which saw officials from the Independent Office for Police Conduct hold the announcement into ‘possible criminality’ by the PM until after December 12
The alleged offence can carry a life sentence.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said Jon Trickett, shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: ‘This is incredible. It’s a suppression of information which the public is entitled to have. Given the fact we’re in a general election there should be maximum transparency.’
But the IOPC hit back, saying it focuses on being ’entirely independent of the government’.
Its website adds: ‘As a totally independent body, not part of the police or government, we investigate and make decisions on serious and sensitive cases.’
A spokesman for the organisation said he was ’not entirely sure’ if purdah rules – a restriction on communication just before elections – were in play.
He added that due to the seriousness of the allegations the Cabinet Office may have advised to be ‘on the safe side’, but said this unlikely occurred.
It follows last month’s ruling by the Government Internal Audit Agency that a £100,000 grant awarded to Ms Arcuri was ’appropriate’.
Mr Johnson’s friendship with the US businesswoman has raised a series of questions about potential conflicts of interests and the propriety of public funding her company was given.
Queries were raised in the House of Commons about the checks made before the £100,000 grant was given to her firm after being approved in 2018.
But the report said: ‘This review concludes that although the initial gateway questions were not considered for the 19 applications received, the rationale for considering all applications was not unreasonable.
‘In respect of the grant award to Hacker House Ltd, the assessment of eligibility and subsequent award of a reduced value of £100,000, is considered appropriate.’
The report revealed that in October 2018 Ms Arcuri, the chief executive of Hacker House, applied to Digital Culture Media and Sport for £273,000 grant funding under the CSIIF (Cyber Skills Immediate Impact Fund) initiative.
The allegations are in reference to Mr Johnson’s dealings with Ms Arcuri (left and right) while he was Mayor of London and claims of a conflict of interest
The Approvals Board approved Hacker House Ltd’s application, but for a reduced amount of £100,000.
‘The application form submitted by Hacker House Ltd was reviewed and found to have been completed in full,’ the report stated.
‘Despite failing to meet one of the initial gateway requirements to apply for funding under CSIIF, documentary evidence supported the decision to allow the application to proceed.’
While the GIAA concluded the assessment of eligibility and subsequent reduced grant award to Hacker House Ltd was appropriate, it did ‘observe areas where questions on the grant application form would have benefited from being clearer’.
Examples it gave were defining ‘limited trading history’ and a breakdown of the roles of staff employed by the lead organisation.
In an interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain last month, Ms Arcuri said of Mr Johnson: ‘Never once did I ask him for a favour. Never once did he write a letter of recommendation for me. He didn’t know about my asking to go to trips.’
Boris Johnson and the blonde bombshell: Timeline of revelations
MPs and LA members will assess the public monies disbursed to Jennifer Arcuri, pictured
September 22: The Sunday Times reports that Labour MP Jon Trickett wants Johnson to explain the allegation that he failed to declare potential conflicts of interest while London mayor in relation to the allocation of public money to American businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri.
September 23: Mr Johnson initially declines to comment on the allegations and also declines to comment on his relationship with Ms Arcuri. The PM is repeatedly questioned on a flight to New York for the UN General Assembly, but says ‘everything was done with complete propriety’.
September 24: Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom tells Radio 4’s Today programme that she is ‘comfortable’ with Mr Johnson’s assurances he had acted properly.
September 27: The Prime Minister says he will comply with a London Assembly order to explain his links to Ms Arcuri. He is referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to assess whether he should be investigated for the criminal offence of misconduct in public office while he was Mayor of London.
September 29: The Sunday Times reports that Ms Arcuri had told four friends she had an affair with Mr Johnson while he was London mayor. The Prime Minister tells Andrew Marr he had no interest to declare.
September 30: Mr Johnson insists allegations over his private life, including his links to Ms Arcuri and the allegation he squeezed the thigh of a female journalist, will not overshadow the Tory Party conference.
October 1: The Prime Minister tells LBC radio that allegations over his personal life had only come out because of some people’s intent to ‘frustrate’ Brexit.
October 3: Ms Arcuri tells the Daily Mail she had ‘every right’ to go on trade missions with Mr Johnson. She calls all the allegations false, saying she is a ‘legitimate businesswoman’.
October 6: The Sunday Times reports that leaked emails showed that Ms Arcuri had listed Mr Johnson as a reference in her application for a role in Tech City.
October 7: Ms Arcuri appears on ITV’s Good Morning Britain and refuses to deny she had an affair with Mr Johnson. She says the politician had visited her Shoreditch flat a ‘handful’ of times and called him ‘a really good friend’ but denied he ever showed her favouritism. Refusing to answer questions about the nature of her relationship with the then mayor of London, she said: ‘It’s really not anyone’s business what private life we had.’
October 8: Mr Johnson fails to meet the deadline to respond to questions by the London Assembly over his relationship with Ms Arcuri. The two-week deadline expired at 6pm without a response, the assembly said.
October 10: The London Assembly asks Mr Johnson to explain by October 21 why his response to a probe into his links to Ms Arcuri should be kept confidential.
October 31: DCMS releases report on £100,000 grant to Arcuri’s business, saying it was ‘appropriate’.
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