Legatum founder is ‘suspected spy’

Legatum founder is ‘suspected spy’: Devastating claim made by MPs about Brexit think-tank man after shock dossier reports ‘Kremlin links’

  • MPs accused billionaire Christopher Chandler of being a Russian agent
  • They made the intervention during money-laundering Commons debate 
  • New Zealand-born Mr Chandler said to be ‘object of interest’ to French 

Billionaire Christopher Chandler, who was accused in the House of Commons last week of being a suspected Russian agent with links to money-laundering 

The Kremlin ‘spying’ row engulfing a pro-Brexit think-tank deepened last night after The Mail on Sunday obtained the explosive files at the centre of the furore.

Billionaire Christopher Chandler – whose Legatum Institute helped Boris Johnson and Michael Gove to lobby the Prime Minister for a hard Brexit – was accused in the House of Commons last week of being a suspected Russian agent with links to money-laundering.

Secretive New Zealand-born Mr Chandler was said to be an ‘object of interest’ to the French, who suspected him of ‘working for the Russian intelligence services’.

Mr Chandler strongly denies the claims.

In an incendiary all-party move, four MPs, including three former Ministers, used the legal protection of parliamentary privilege to make allegations based on documents which have been circulating in intelligence circles.

Tory MP Bob Seely told MPs that the claims were based on papers which ‘originate from Monaco’s Surete Publique, the police department that manages security and foreign residents in that area’.

He said that they were ‘based on the Surete Publique’s own information and on information provided by the French Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire – the DST – which, at the time, was the French equivalent of MI5’.

Mr Seely, a pro-Brexit member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, told the Commons that the file described Mr Chandler as having been ‘an object of interest to the DST since 2002 on suspicion of… working for the Russian intelligence services’. 

And he said that Mr Chandler’s personal file was marked ‘file code S’, which Mr Seely described as ‘a DST marker indicating… a high or higher level of threat to France… In Monaco then, it was used to designate counter-espionage’.

A copy of the files, seen by this newspaper, shows an ‘S’ written on the cover page next to ‘code fiche’, meaning ‘file code’, and personal details for Mr Chandler. 

It is dated October 17, 2005.

The claims, as set out by Mr Seely, are written in French under the heading ‘commentaires’.

Mr Seely claimed that the files had been ‘authenticated by senior French intelligence sources and by British and American counterparts familiar with their contents’.

He was backed by former Cabinet Ministers Liam Byrne and Ben Bradshaw and former Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant, who all raised questions about Mr Chandler in their speeches.

The Mail on Sunday first reported last November that Christopher Chandler’s Legatum think-tank had played a key role in Brexit Ministers’ secret letter to Theresa May

The MPs made their intervention during a Commons debate on money-laundering, during which Mr Bryant backed international moves to impose sanctions on Russian oligarchs such as Oleg Deripaska.

Sources close to Mr Chandler do not deny that the Monaco documents themselves are authentic but say that the allegations contained within – and repeated by the MPs – are entirely without foundation.

One source said: ‘In Monaco at the time, they kept files on pretty much everyone. It was standard practice and carried no connotation of wrongdoing.’

The Mail on Sunday has chronicled how Mr Chandler, 58, created a hedge fund in the 1980s with his brother Richard and made a fortune investing in, among other places, the ‘wild west’ of post-communist Russia. Both brothers are named in the files.

The London-based Legatum Institute is the charitable arm of the Legatum Group, a private investment firm set up by Christopher Chandler in Dubai in 2006.

Mr Chandler says that he plays no part in the running of the Legatum Institute or influencing its work.

Mr Seely says this is Mr Chandler’s personal file held by the French Secret Services. He says File Code ‘S’ indicates ‘a higher level of threat’

This newspaper exposed how the institute helped Mr Gove and Mr Johnson to write the secret letter to Mrs May last autumn which set out their blueprint for a post-EU Britain. 

The institute denies taking a line on Brexit, but has established strong links to hard Brexit-backing Ministers, MPs, economists and campaigners.

In his Commons speech, Mr Byrne described Legatum as ‘an important think-tank that has enjoyed unrivalled access to Ministers during one of this country’s most important national debates’.

Mr Byrne highlighted a line in the file saying: ‘Richard Chandler and his brother Christopher play an important role in the capital of the companies Lukoil and Gazprom (linked to long-standing… Russian figures who could be linked to organised crime)’ and said the file also claimed that the brothers maintained relations with an ‘a Chechen mafia figure’.

He said: ‘The risk… we are running is that that support is financed from sources that derive from the Russian Federation.

‘If there is innocence, it should be proved. It should be clear. That is why the disinfectant of sunlight is so important. 

‘What we cannot have is agents of influence peddling policies and proposals backed by dirty money from one of our country’s enemies.’

Mr Bryant told the Commons that he had seen the file and ‘come to the same conclusion’ as Mr Seely about Mr Chandler.

The MPs also raised questions about the way Mr Chandler secured an EU passport by taking out Maltese citizenship.

Former Culture Secretary Mr Bradshaw asked for an investigation by the UK authorities into ‘growing concern about corruption, money-laundering and the sale of passports in Malta, where Chandler has just acquired citizenship’. 

The Mail on Sunday revealed earlier this year that Mr Chandler had secured an EU passport two years ago by ploughing more than £1 million into the island.

In March, Pilatus, the Maltese bank used by Mr Chandler to secure the passport, had its assets frozen following the arrest of its owner on money-laundering charges.

The bank has been the subject of corruption claims since journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia accused it of being at the centre of an international network of illicit fund transfers.

She was killed by a car bomb last year. There is no suggestion that Mr Chandler was aware of any wrongdoing at the bank. Pilatus has denied any wrongdoing.

When Malta’s Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, was asked about Mr Chandler and the cash-for-passports scheme last week, he told local journalists cryptically: ‘There is a very interesting story you could investigate.’ 

What the MPs said about billionaire… 

Tory MP Bob Seely, member of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee 

Described Mr Chandler as ‘an object of interest’ suspected of ‘working for the Russian intelligence services’.

Labour MP Liam Byrne, former Chief Secretary to the Treasury 

‘What we cannot have is agents of influence peddling policies and proposals backed by dirty money from one of our country’s enemies.’

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, former Culture Secretary 

Called for an investigation into ‘growing concern about corruption, money-laundering and the sale of passports in Malta, where Chandler has just acquired citizenship’.

…but he tells Bercow to strike out claims 

Christopher Chandler was so incensed by the MPs’ actions in the Commons last week that he has asked John Bercow to remove their allegations about him from the official parliamentary record.

Mr Chandler wrote to the Speaker on Friday to complain that he has ‘no means of challenging the false claims against my reputation because they were made under the auspices of parliamentary privilege’ – which gives MPs immunity from defamation actions over anything they say during formal proceedings.

He told Mr Bercow he will be ‘challenging the four MPs to defend the veracity of their claims and to stand by the courage of their convictions by repeating the allegations outside of the House of Commons’ – and asked for Mr Bercow’s ‘support’ by agreeing to edit them out of Hansard, the Commons record. 

Mr Chandler said: ‘I call on you to hold accountable those concerned for their abuse of privilege. I ask you to support any efforts to strike these slurs and factual errors from the Official Record.’

The Legatum Institute’s backer denied that he had ever acted on behalf of the Russian state. 

Mr Chandler told Mr Bercow: ‘I wish to put it on the record that I have never represented Vladimir Putin or the interests of his regime.

‘I am not and never have been associated with the Russian state in any capacity. 

‘There is no evidence to support claims to the contrary.’

He added: ‘Over the last four decades, my global investment activities, commercial and philanthropic, have deliberately and measurably improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people.’



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