Pro-Brexit think tank backer accused to trying to threaten MPs
We WON’T be bullied by you, MPs tell Brexit tycoon with links to Kremlin
- Christopher Chandler’s London-based firm helped lobby for hard Brexit
- Sent legal letters to six Commons committees claiming right to privacy
- French officials suspect him of working for Russian intelligence services
The billionaire backer of a controversial pro-Brexit think-tank was last night accused of trying to threaten MPs over their investigation into his Russian links.
Christopher Chandler, whose London-based Legatum Institute helped Boris Johnson and Michael Gove to lobby Theresa May for a hard Brexit, has sent legal letters to six Commons committees, claiming that his right to privacy is protected under European human rights law.
The letters have been interpreted by MPs as an attempt to overturn a 300-year-old tradition of parliamentary privilege, which preserves their freedom to speak out in Parliament without fear of being sued.
MPs are examining claims about Mr Chandler which have been circulating among intelligence agencies.
Earlier this month, Mr Chandler, who was born in New Zealand but who now has Maltese citizenship, was named in the Commons as an ‘object of interest’ to the French. Officials there suspect him of ‘working for Russian intelligence services’ and of being linked to money-laundering. Mr Chandler strongly denies the claims.
Christopher Chandler, whose London-based Legatum Institute helped Boris Johnson and Michael Gove to lobby Theresa May for a hard Brexit, has sent legal letters to six Commons committees
In the latest twist to the saga, former Labour Cabinet Minister Liam Byrne told MPs last week that Mr Chandler had ‘threatened six Select Committee chairs with proceedings in the European Court of Human Rights if they dare to probe his links with President Putin’.
The MP added: ‘I happen to believe that, if a New Zealander who is based in Dubai with acquired Maltese citizenship and a think-tank in Mayfair has suspect links, we should raise questions. Is it time to send a message from this House that we will not be bullied or intimidated by anyone?’ The letters also prompted Speaker John Bercow to issue an unprecedented rebuke to Mr Chandler. He wrote to the tycoon warning him that the principle of parliamentary privilege is sacrosanct.
And the Speaker told Mr Byrne: ‘I do not care who writes to me to exhort me to prevent or limit that right. It will make not the blindest bit of difference.’
After receiving his letter, Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the powerful Foreign Affairs Committee, consulted the judgments and academic writings of his father – high court judge Sir Michael Tugendhat. Sir Michael is regarded as the country’s leading expert on privacy law. The judgments and articles make clear that parliamentary privilege cannot be trumped by any other law.
Last week The Mail on Sunday revealed that Mr Chandler’s brother Richard had boasted about how the pair had helped Putin’s associates take control of Russia’s energy giant Gazprom.
A pamphlet published by Richard Chandler’s Clermont Group stated that, after the brothers placed their own director on the board, they teamed up with Putin to launch a management coup.
Christopher Chandler’s aides, who deny that he was ever ‘in cahoots with Putin’, claim the passage was written in error.
The Legatum Group said: ‘Anyone in a position of power acts as a bully if they make unfounded accusations without the facts and without giving their accused the right to address the claims fairly.
‘These MPs have refused to speak to Legatum or Christopher Chandler despite repeated and respectful approaches, which at this point can only be interpreted as a wilful disregard for truth in order to advance a political agenda. For the sake of the good name of Parliament, we ask them to withdraw their outlandish claims and apologise for the hurt caused.’
Last week The Mail on Sunday revealed that Mr Chandler’s brother Richard had boasted about how the pair had helped Putin’s associates take control of Russia’s energy giant Gazprom
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