Russian diplomat offered to fund British Conservative Party, complaint alleges

MI5 Security ServiceA DIPLOMAT STATIONED AT the embassy of the Russian Federation in London proposed to channel Russian funds to the British Conservative Party, according to a formal complaint made by a Conservative Party activist. The information was reportedly disregarded by Britain’s counterintelligence agency, the Security Service (MI5), and has now been filed as a complaint with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). Established in 2000, the IPT is an independent judicial body that handles public complaints about the British intelligence services.

The source of the complaint is Sergei Cristo, a former reporter with the World Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and longtime Conservative Party organizer. Cristo’s allegations center on the Conservative Friends of Russia (CFoR), a high-profile lobby group founded by prominent Conservative Party parliamentarians, including Nigel Evans, Andrew Rosindell, John Whittingdale and Robert Buckland. The CFoR’s first honorary president was Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who served as Foreign Secretary under Conservative Prime Minister John Major.

The founding of CFoR in 2012 was celebrated at a lavish outdoor reception hosted by the Russian Ambassador to London, Alexander Yakovenko. It was followed by an all-expenses-paid trip to Russia, organized by the Russian embassy, for a group of select CFR members. Among them were prominent Euroskeptics, who later became leading figures in the campaign that resulted in Britain’s exit from the European Union. A few years later, the group was renamed the Westminster Russia Forum (WRF). In 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the WRF disbanded altogether.

During the CFoR’s early days, In December 2010, nearly two years before CFoR was founded, Cristo says he was approached by Sergey Nalobin, first secretary of the Russian embassy’s political section. According to Cristo, Nalobin was interested in Cristo’s role as a volunteer in the finance department of the Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ). Known also as the Conservative Central Office, the CCHQ operates as the head office of the British Conservative Party. Cristo claims that Nalobin told him of his intention to introduce CCHQ officials to “Russian companies who would donate money to the Conservative party” —a proposition that was illegal under British law.

Cristo was subsequently informed by expatriate Russian journalists that Nalobin was in all likelihood connected to the Russian intelligence services through his father, a Soviet KGB general who retired as a senior official in the Federal Security Service (FSB). Nalobin’s brother, Viktor, also worked for the FSB at the time, according to Cristo. He also claims to have been told by Russian intelligence defector Oleg Gordievsky that Nalobin was an undercover Russian intelligence officer.

Cristo contacted MI5 with information about Nalobin’s offer. This resulted in a meeting with two MI5 officers, in which Cristo claims he was “advised to cease contact” with the Russian diplomat. He did not pursue the issue further. Soon afterwards, CFoR was launched. That, however, changed in 2020, when Cristo came across the Russia report of the Intelligence and Security Committee of the British Parliament. The report, the outcome of a two-year investigation of Russian political influence campaigns in Britain, criticized MI5 for having ignored “credible evidence” of Russian efforts to interfere in British political life.

At that point, Cristo contacted the Conservative chair the Intelligence and Security Committee, Julian Lewis, and shared his story. Lewis advised him to file a formal complaint to the IPT. British newspaper The Observer, which reported Cristo’s efforts to publicize Nalobin’s activities, said last week that the information shared by Cristo may contain “potentially explosive new evidence that confirms [the Intelligence and Security Committee’s] findings”.

Updated 31 January 2023 (with thanks to S.C.)

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 23 January 2023 | Permalink

2 Responses to Russian diplomat offered to fund British Conservative Party, complaint alleges

  1. Stankiewicz Emmanuel says:

    It was obvious from the beginning, that the whole BREXIT campaign was originated , orchestrate and heavily funded but the Kremlin with the sole objective to tear apart loyal countries from the European Union and install chaos among the members. It did have some success, and the British people fell in the trap. Now they are realizing how stupid they were.
    All such plots by Russia are made in such an old fashioned and stupid means that they are noticed the moment they surface in the media. People who are well acquainted with Soviet propaganda system notice it immediately

  2. Anonymous says:

    Certainly its an indictment of Britain’s Conservative Party (in power since 2010) that it still tolerated its own pro-Russia CFR and WRF for 8 years, even after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. Probably it’s unsurprising that security service investigations, like MI5’s, are dictated by their political masters.

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