The Tories have accepted a fresh donation of £217,500 from Lycamobile in defiance of calls on the party to sever its ties with the controversial telecoms group.
The latest Electoral Commission data shows the company donated £117,500 in the last quarter, while its Sri Lankan-born owner Subaskaran Allirajah made a personal gift of £100,000. Lycamobile has now given the Tories more than £1.5 million since David Cameron came to power, despite avoiding paying any corporation tax in the UK for years by moving revenue out of the country through a complex offshore corporate network.
The Tories have faced mounting calls to freeze all donations from Lycamobile after BuzzFeed News revealed its highly unorthodox financial activities in October. The company employs three cash couriers who were caught on film depositing rucksacks stuffed with hundreds of thousands of pounds twice a day in post offices scattered across London.
Lycamobile's bank, Santander, has now launched an internal investigation into whether anti–money-laundering protocols have been breached by the deposits, which were branded "deeply suspicious" by the former director of public prosecutions, Lord MacDonald QC.
“The use of unmarked vehicles, the lack of any security arrangements, the repeated deposits of huge sums of cash to multiple branches of the Post Office, is all conduct that cries out for explanation,” Lord MacDonald said. “Frankly, this is not the way a normal … business deposits its cash. ... It demands serious investigation.”
Government investigators in Sri Lanka are separately probing a key offshore company in the Lyca empire that is suspected of helping deposed president Mahinda Rajapaksa launder millions of dollars stolen from the state.
Labour last night attacked the Tories over the decision to continue taking company's money. "Serious concerns have been raised about the business practices of this company, which must be urgently addressed," said Peter Kyle MP. "The prime minister once said that sunlight was the best disinfectant – with that in mind, he needs to explain exactly what checks have been carried out by the Tories to ensure everything with regard to these donations is above board.”
Jon Ashworth, the shadow minister without portfolio, wrote to Tory party chair Lord Feldman last month demanding that the party sever its ties with Lycamobile, but received no response.
The fresh donations were made on 4 September but the Conservatives only reported the gift to the Electoral Commission on 29 October — weeks after BuzzFeed News revealed the company's suspicious business practices.
BuzzFeed News also revealed that Lycamobile was reported to the police for suspected money laundering after its closest rival hired a team of spies to tail its bagmen as they performed their post office cash drops. However, the National Crime Agency has refused to comment on what action, if any, was taken.
Lycamobile denied any wrongdoing and insisted its cash deposits were just "day-to-day banking".
Read the original BuzzFeed News investigation:
Heidi Blake is the Global Investigations Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Heidi Blake at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Gillard is an investigations correspondent for BuzzFeed UK. He is the author of Untouchables and For Queen & Currency.
Contact Michael Gillard at Michael.Gillard@buzzfeed.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.