Police watchdog asks London Assembly to pause Jennifer Arcuri investigation

PUBLISHED: 16:02 16 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:30 16 October 2019

Jeremy Corbyn has asked why more media outlets are not following up the Sunday Times story about a potential conflict of interest in Boris Johnson's friendship with Jennifer Arcuri, who received thousands in public money. Picture: TED

Jeremy Corbyn has asked why more media outlets are not following up the Sunday Times story about a potential conflict of interest in Boris Johnson's friendship with Jennifer Arcuri, who received thousands in public money. Picture: TED

TED

An investigation by the London Assembly into US businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri and her relationship with Boris Johnson has been put on ice following a request by the police watchdog.

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Members of the oversight committee at City Hall were due to look into allegations that Boris Johnson showed favouritism to the American businesswoman during his time as mayor of London by giving her £126,000 in public funding and privileged access to three foreign trade missions.

But at the start of the meeting, committee chair Len Duvall AM said it had received correspondence from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) "asking us to pause our investigation".

The London Assembly has not yet said whether they have received an explanation for the request.

Duvall added: "I'm not clear whether they are scoping out whether to investigate or are actually investigating."

He continued: "We respect the right of the IOPC ... in their jurisdiction which is very narrow in its definition, of looking at the actions of Boris Johnson in his time as police and crime commissioner during the time of some of the potential allegations."

He said the committee had "rights and responsibilities and powers to investigate in a much wider role about the actions of, or the potential actions, or any allegations against any ... previous mayor".

Duvall said its investigatory powers were limited to a period of up to eight years.

He said the committee did not wish to "jeopardise" any other investigation taking place, adding: "That is why we will pause our activities now and they will resume at the appropriate time."

Johnson has complied with a request for evidence from the oversight committee, with members agreeing so far with a request from the Conservative Party leader's solicitors for the submitted papers to be kept confidential.

MORE: You cannot sweep Jennifer Arcuri letter under the carpet, Boris Johnson told

MPs were also due to question culture secretary Nicky Morgan about a £100,000 grant that the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport gave to Arcuri's business.

There were questions raised in the Commons about the due diligence made on the grant approval after ministers justified awarding the money - meant to be spent on improving IT skills in the UK - because the company had a British phone number.

Calls to the number were answered by workers based in California, where tech entrepreneur Arcuri, 34, is said to be based.

Boris Johnson has previously accused his "old friends" in the London Assembly of "barking up the wrong tree" with their investigation.

Arcuri, a former model, used an interview with ITV's Good Morning Britain to deny reports that she received favouritism during his eight-year stint as mayor.

The businesswoman, who said she met Johnson for the first time in October 2011, has refused to comment on whether they had a romantic relationship as well as a professional rapport.

MORE: Jennifer Arcuri denies ever getting favours from Boris Johnson

Previously she said: "I think it's quite unfortunate that it becomes that a good friend, who has now been, you know, now I'm dragged into the middle of this horrific scandal, you know, and the answer that I'm going to give is now going to be weaponised against this man.

"It's really categorically no-one's business what private life we had, or didn't have. But - and categorically more important - Boris never, ever gave me favouritism.

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"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."

The New European has contacted the IOPC for comment.

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