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16 Things You Need To Know About Lycamobile's Links To The Tories

This is how the firm that deposits up to £1 million a week at the Post Office in rucksacks full of cash bought its way into the Tory elite.

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The Tory donor Lycamobile is embroiled in controversy after BuzzFeed News exposed its practise of dropping hundreds of thousands of pounds in cash-stuffed rucksacks at multiple Post Office branches twice a day. The firm has said it is a cash-rich business and that deposits at the Post Office are entirely above board and nothing more than "day to day banking." But experts said they were "deeply suspicious" and called for an urgent investigation. Here's everything you need to know about how the tax-avoiding telecoms giant wooed the Conservative party.

1. Subaskaran Allirajah, the Lycamobile owner, is one of the Conservative party’s most generous benefactors.


The Sri Lankan-born telecoms boss has handed David Cameron’s party more than £1.3 million since 2011 through Lycamobile UK, which avoids tax by moving revenues offshore.

2. Lycamobile has given the Tories £503,450 in 2015.

Electoral Commission

3. Allirajah bought a bronze bust of Margaret Thatcher for £210,000 at a Tory fundraising auction.

Pool New / Reuters

The Lyca boss made his winning bid at a glittering fundraising ball in February packed with the multimillionaires who bankroll the Conservative party.

4. Allirajah's generosity has bought him a place at David Cameron's table.

Markus Schreiber / AP

In 2012, the telecoms tycoon joined the Leader's Group, the prime minister's private dining club for top Tory donors who give more than £50,000.

5. The Lycamobile owner has attended the party's exclusive fundraising events, including its glitzy Black and White Ball earlier this year.

via twitter: @TomBWarren

6. Here he is getting a squeeze from the prime minister at the ball this February.


7. Lycamobile is a major backer of the mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images

The company allowed Johnson's campaigners to run telephone canvassing sessions from its offices during his most recent mayoral campaign in 2012. It also gave the Tories £131,612 in the months building up to the election, including at least £10,000 earmarked specially for the "Back Boris" fund.

8. Boris Johnson has been a vocal fan of Lycamobile and went to its birthday.

via YouTube: TalkOfTheTown/Natasha Asghar / Via youtube.com

Here he is next to Allirajah as he cuts the cake at Lycamobile's fifth anniversary event in 2011. Johnson hailed the company as “a wonderful business” and wished Allirajah “every success in the years to come” at the event.

9. It's not all cold hard cash: the London mayor has also received flowers, champagne, and hampers from Allirajah.

Mohd Rasfan / AFP / Getty Images

The mayor's register of interests shows that Allirajah and his company have sent him gifts at City Hall, including bouquets of flowers, hampers, and champagne. Gifts were also sent to deputy mayor Stephen Greenhalgh.

10. The Tories took a six-figure donation days after its own compliance department flagged concerns about Lycamobile's chaotic finances.

The firm has repeatedly sailed close to being struck off for failing to file its accounts on time, which is technically a criminal offence under the Companies Act 2006 and can lead to prosecution. Internal emails seen by BuzzFeed News reveal that the party's compliance officers had warned fundraisers about the problem days before £110,000 was donated in 2012. The emails between the party's head of fundraising Mike Chattey and its former treasurer Peter Cruddas relate to a meeting with the Lycamobile lobbist Dr Anwara Ali to discuss the donation. After the money was accepted, Ali promised Lycamobile would help advise the party on business and do all it could to help deliver the British Asian vote.

11. The party carried on taking Lycamobile's money even after the company was labelled a "tax offender" by the chair of a powerful Commons committee.

Scott Barbour / Getty Images

The then chair of the public accounts committee, Labour's Margaret Hodge, hit out at the Tories for taking money from a firm that paid no tax in the UK for years. "No political party should accept donations from a company that avoids paying its fair contribution to the common good," she said. "The Government loses credibility if it says it condemns tax avoidance and then accepts money from obvious offenders." But the party kept taking Lycamobile's money.

12. Loyal Tories leapt to Lycamobile's defence when it was criticised over its tax affairs.

.@LycamobileUK are investing their profits in British jobs. This is a good thing. Margaret Hodge must stop talking our economy down.

Lycamobile defended itself at the time by saying that all profits had been reinvested to grow each company in the group and that when they matured corporation tax would be paid.

13. Cameron brushed off warnings about Lycamobile's links to relatives of the Sri Lankan despot Mahinda Rajapaksa.

My letter to @David_Cameron demanding investigation into donations from donor linked to Sri Lankan regime

14. The prime minister controversially visited Sri Lanka and met Rajapaksa following a business forum sponsored by Lycamobile in 2013.

Mohd Rasfan / AFP / Getty Images

Cameron's visit was mired in controversy because the Sri Lankan government, then headed by Mahinda Rajapaksa, had been accused of war crimes during the country's brutal civil war. Lycamobile was the "gold sponsor" of the Commonwealth Business Forum, which was timed to coincide with the prime minister's arrival in the country.

15. Some of Lycamobile’s other senior executives rub shoulders with Tory politicians too.


The firm’s CEO Christopher Tooley (right) was pictured with London mayoral hopeful Zac Goldsmith (left) at a charity event the firm sponsored.

16. Allirajah is also close to politicians on other sides of the house.


He is pictured above alongside Lib Dem Vince Cable (right) and is also close to his local Labour MP, Stephen Timms, who called Lyca a "remarkable east London success story".

And follow the money: Tory Donor’s Crazy Cash Trail In 20 GIFs And Pictures

Richard Holmes is an investigations reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Richard Holmes at richard.holmes@buzzfeed.com.

Heidi Blake is a senior investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News based in London. She is the author of From Russia With Blood: The Kremlin's Ruthless Assassination Program and Vladimir Putin's Secret War on the West, and the co-author of The Ugly Game: The Qatari Plot to Buy the World Cup

Contact Heidi Blake at heidi.blake@buzzfeed.com.

Contact Jane Bradley at jane.bradley@buzzfeed.com.

Tom Warren is an investigations correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Tom Warren at tom.warren@buzzfeed.com.

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.

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