Conservative donor and Vladimir Putin associate facing forgery charges in Luxembourg | Conservatives
A Tory donor who has been described as a friend of Vladimir Putin and who donated £400,000 to the party ahead of the Brexit referendum, faces forgery charges in Luxembourg.
Gerard Lopez, 50, who chaired the Lotus Formula One team in the UK, donated to the Conservatives in April 2016, two months before the referendum. He denied the charges.
It was reported in Land of Lëtzebuerger, a Luxembourgish political weekly, that investigators examined transfers of hundreds of thousands of pounds between Lotus’ former UK operations, a Luxembourg football club and a Hong Kong-based investment firm. Luxembourg justice has not ruled on the scope of the investigation.
A spokesperson said: “The Luxembourg prosecutor’s office has asked the Luxembourg district court sitting in summary proceedings to refer Mr Lopez to a criminal court. The offenses in question are forgery and the use of forgery. The spokesperson said Lopez and Eric Lux, a business partner, have both been charged.
A spokesperson for Lopez said: “[Mr Lopez] categorically denies the allegations against him. He is convinced that the [court in chambers], who has not yet heard his position, will clear his name. The [court] has not yet ruled on whether to hold a trial or dismiss these lawsuits.
Lux also denies the allegations and her spokesperson said any suggestion of wrongdoing in relation to Lotus F1 is “totally refuted”.
The spokesperson said Lopez made a donation to the Conservatives to support Zac Goldsmith as the Conservative candidate for London mayor in May 2016. They said he was not involved in any political party .
Lopez was an early investor in Skype and has been an influential figure in European sport, from Formula 1 to French football. He was co-founder, with Lux, of private equity firm Genii Capital, which struck a deal in late 2009 to buy Britain’s Renault Formula One team, which was later renamed Lotus F1.
Lopez’s donation to the conservative party came under scrutiny at the time over its ties to Russia. He is a Spanish citizen but was allowed to donate to the party because he was on the electoral roll. The contractor is one of a number of overseas donors who have been allowed under election law to donate to the Conservative Party. Observer revealed last month how supermarket rice tycoon Karan Chanana donated to the party through an overseas company with millions of pounds in debt.
The Electoral Commission has said it would like tighter controls on foreign money used to fund political parties.
Lopez was chairman of Rise Capital AB, which secured a series of deals in infrastructure projects in Russia worth billions of pounds. It was reported in 2016 that Rise Capital had listed as partners three Russian banks that were imposed sanctions after the 2014 invasion of Crimea.
In June 2015, Lopez signed a major infrastructure contract in Russia on behalf of Rise. The signing ceremony at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum was attended by Igor Kholmanskikh, the former head of a tank factory who was appointed by Putin as presidential envoy to the Urals.
During Lopez’s participation in Formula 1, he was photographed with Putin, who tested a Renault racing car at a circuit near St Petersburg in November 2010. Lopez is said to have befriended the Russian president. The book Putin’s Peopleby Catherine Belton, includes a report on how Lopez spent time with Putin at his summer residence several years ago, “feeding his pets apples and listening to piano music.”
Lopez’s spokesperson said the businessman was invited to “accommodation near the racetrack” with other members of the Formula 1 team. The spokesperson said Rise Capital had no active investment in Russia. Lopez sold most of his stake in Lotus F1 in 2015. He was confirmed as the new owner of French football club Girondins de Bordeaux in July last year. He previously owned French top-flight club Lille.
Luxembourg’s judicial spokesperson said the district court will now decide whether or not to take the case to a criminal court. The spokesperson said the decision could also be appealed. Lux did not respond to a request for comment.