A senior SNP MP has said that allegations that Theresa May’s Conservative Party took money from a company financed by HSBC “warrant criminal investigations”. And crucially, he says it needs to happen before the 8 June general election.
Roger Mullins is the SNP MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. He took the seat from Gordon Brown in the 2015 general election. And he says that the allegations which The Canary broke showed a “very serious and deeply worrying case”.
As The Canary reported on 28 April, the story centres around a private investment firm called IPGL, run by former Conservative Party Treasurer Michael Spencer. In October 2008, HSBC made [pdf] a £214.2m loan to IPGL. At the time, IPGL was in financial difficulties, with one of its subsidiary companies (a betting firm called City Index) reporting [paywall] £43m losses. Spencer had to put in £70m of his personal £1bn fortune to bail out the failing company.
Millions in donations
But despite these losses, IPGL was donating between £500,000 and £1.1m a year to the Tories from 2007 to 2011 (see pdfs for 2007 [p4], 2008 [p5], 2009 [p6], 2010 [p6], and 2011 [p6]). And it specifically gave [pdf p6] £1.03m to the Conservatives’ 2010 election campaign. This included £18,706 directly to David Cameron, with the company paying [pdf p60] for him, George Osborne and four unnamed others to fly by private jet to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Months before the 2010 general election. The Guardian also named Spencer in Cameron’s “cash-for-access” scandal, as he attended private dinners with the former PM at Number 10.
The Canary went to HSBC’s annual general meeting on 28 April. Fionn Travers-Smith of Move Your Money from the event explained why this story is so important (video provided by a campaign group):
Roger Mullins told Joel Benjamin of Debt Resistance UK:
This is a very serious and deeply worrying case, suggesting that a major bank and a business customer have been involved in activities serious enough to warrant criminal investigation. In the first instance, I shall be writing to the Electoral Commission. The main questions I intend raising include:
1. Did HSBC and IPGL inform the Electoral Commission of all donations to the Conservative Party during the period IPGL was in receipt of a substantial loan from HSBC?
2. What is the Electoral Commission’s policy where bank loans to loss-making companies are then laundered to party political donations?
3. Will the Electoral Commission launch an immediate investigation into whether electoral law has been broken by HSBC and IPGL since 2008?
There must be an investigation into this and before the General Election of 2017. Indeed, it may be that early action should include the Conservative Party being ordered to return the full value of monetary and in-kind contributions made from IPGL and others since 2008.
He has since written to the Electoral Commission about his concerns:
— Joel Benjamin (@Gian_TCatt) May 2, 2017
Labour MP John Mann echoed Mullins’ sentiment. He said that it was “the biggest party donor scandal ever”. And he told The Canary:
This is a very major regulatory issue and needs assessing for potential criminal behaviour. It’s political games being played in the hope of a weaker approach to bankers’ fraud and greedy bonuses.
Essentially, off the back of dodgy money from HSBC, the Conservative Party campaigned for and won the 2010 general election.
This raises questions about the way the financial services industry monitors just where its money is going. But it also casts a dark shadow over the Conservative Party’s victory in 2010. Because, if the party got money from IPGL via HSBC, which the bank should never have lent to IPGL in the first place, the whole election could be thrown into question.
HSBC, Michael Spencer, and the Conservative Party declined to comment.
UPDATE: This article was updated at 12.44 on 4 May 2017 to clarify that the video was provided to The Canary by a campaign group.
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