No one is immune to the abuse of British law by the wealthy elite. Ask Charlotte Leslie | Nick Cohen



VSCharlotte Leslie was hit with threats that would have broken a lesser woman. The former Tory MP for Bristol North West crossed paths with a Tory donor, Mohamed Amersi. Now she has learned what journalists and whistleblowers already know: when you challenge the wealthy elite, the oligarchic British legal system will throw you into “a world of pain”.

“We both know you have big problems. » Carl Hunter OBE, a party fixer and adviser to Tory ministers told him in February 2020. “I think you have to consider your position, like being able to walk the dog at night, being able to sleep well at night.”

In the unlikely event that she missed her meaning, tapes Leslie made for protection show Hunter telling her, “Mohamed thinks someone wrote an anonymous letter.

“You stare into a world of pain about this… If you’re not careful, it’ll keep you awake at night, monopolize your life, for as long as it lasts.”

Amersi denies knowing anything Hunter was saying or that Hunter was acting on his instructions.

He met Leslie in her capacity as director of the Conservative Middle East Council, an influential group that promotes better relations with a region that is both strategically sensitive and, of course, awash in oil wealth.

Amersi and Leslie discussed in March 2020 the possibility of Amersi becoming its president. After Leslie and the chairman of the board, Nicholas Soames, decided not to work with him, Amersi created a rival organization. Leslie and Soames sent a private due diligence note outlining their concerns to Ben Elliot, the Tory co-chair, and a handful of political and intelligence sources: it is apparently the “anonymous letter” to which Hunter made reference in his threatening phone calls. . Although we don’t know its contents, Leslie said he compiled it from publicly available sources. Amersi said his claims were “libelous and inaccurate” and that Leslie “damaged his reputation” in the eyes of the people who mattered most to him.

In one Debate in the House of Commons Commenting on the ability of extremely wealthy people to abuse the law on Thursday, David Davis noted that Amersi said he was “driven by a desire to create a better world for everyone.” Let’s test this against facts in the public domain, shall we? »

In 2002, while Amersi was a lawyer, Judge Peter Smith describes Amersi’s conduct as “dismal” and his testimony as “unreliable”, “unconvincing” and “unsatisfactory”. In 2005, Amersi won £4 million by helping a Luxembourg company buy a Russian telecommunications company. The following year, a Swiss judge concluded that the company was secretly owned by what Davis described as a “best friendby Vladimir Putin. As the Guardian and the BBC reported, Pandora’s logs showed Amersi was involved in structuring a deal for Swedish company Telia that later turned out to include a $220 million bribe (162 million pounds) for the daughter of the then President of Uzbekistan. (At the time, Amersi’s lawyers said he had “no reason” to believe it could be a bribe and that the arrangements underlying the agreement had been in place prior to his involvement.) Although all of this information is publicly available, Davis concluded, “Amersi used his wealth and influence to attempt to silence Charlotte Leslie.”

Hunter’s taped calls, revealed last week by Simon Walters of the To post, are horrible to hear. Leslie is desperate to escape from the “world of pain”. At one point, she offers to apologize if it will save Amersi, but her contrition does not satisfy Amersi or her lawyers.

Amersi told the Observer he condemned “any threatening language”. To him, Hunter was an honest broker trying to settle a dispute. He told the To post that Leslie was “trying to portray himself as the victim when the reverse is true” and that MPs had “hid behind parliamentary privilege to recycle false allegations”.

Meanwhile, Hunter told the To post “he didn’t remember” suggesting it wouldn’t be safe for Leslie to go out at night. He said he was trying to help her. The Metropolitan Police are investigating allegations of malicious communications and harassment.

No one, however, can deny the extent of legal pressure wealthy men can exert in the UK. Charlotte Leslie received dozens of threatening legal letters from Amersi’s lawyers, Carter Ruck. In a pattern familiar to Carole Cadwalladr, my colleague who investigated the Leave campaign, Catherine Belton, the whistleblower of Putin’s cronies, and Tom Burgis from FinancialTimes, which examined the power of a Kazakh mining conglomerate, Amersi is personally suing Leslie, as well as his employer.

First, he alleged that Leslie breached his rights under data protection law. As David Davis said, “Usually the Information Commissioner deals with such disagreements, but when a rich man wants to silence and destroy someone, he goes to court.” Madam Justice Tipples threw away his case, claiming that Amersi and his lawyers had not “both taken to follow the correct procedures”. Undeterred, Amersi files another data protection lawsuit and threatens a defamation suit, not only against Leslie, but against fellow board members who have supported her.

During the debate in the House of Commons, Tory MP Julian Lewis told an unfortunate government minister that Leslie was threatened with financial ruin for checking whether someone who ‘wanted to take over a political organization within the Conservative party was clean or dirty”. If the minister couldn’t understand why Leslie and people like her needed protection, “then he has to… re-study his memoir.”

The minister said the government would respond. But I don’t see how it can. The Conservative Party is the beneficiary of a system that Amersi himself has called “access capitalism”. He paid money to Ben Elliot which quintessentially a “concierge” society offers the super-rich all the luxury they desire. Elliot is the nephew of Prince Charles and America has become a trustee of the Prince’s Trust. Like Russian hedge fund managers and oligarchs, Amersi and his Russian-born partner, Nadezhda Rodicheva, have generously donated to the conservative party.

Wealth, monarchy, government and law blend so well that borders crumble into a foaming broth. Do not be surprised in these circumstances by conservative attacks on voting and protest rights and threats to destroy the BBC. Oligarchic money is one piece with oligarchic politics and Charlotte Leslie won’t be the last person it sends into a world of pain.

Nick Cohen is an Observer columnist

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