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‘Cash for access row’: Richard Pendlebury speaks to Mohamed Amersi about Quintessential

When the dust settles, one wonders how much will be heaped upon the usually immaculate head of Mohamed Amersi – and how much will stick elsewhere.

The ‘dealmaker’, venture capitalist, political donor and philanthropist is among the most influential people in Britain. 

The great and the good clear their diaries whenever one of his gilded invitations drops onto their mat.

Hallowed academic institutions seek his aid if a new library or a refurbishment is needed.

But this week the silver-tongued outsider – he was born and raised in Kenya – has caused consternation at Westminster and in the Royal Household by setting out his ‘grave disappointment’ at the manner in which he has been treated by those upon whose organisations he had showered largesse.

Few will be surprised to learn that money was the key to his entry into the British Establishment. A lot of money. 

And few of those name-checked by the furious Amersi will be enjoying the experience.

Not least among them are the Prince of Wales and his entrepreneurial nephew, Ben Elliot.

Businessman Mohamed Amersi and his wife Nadejda Roditcheva at the National Osteoporosis Society fundraising fashion show in 2016

Prince Charles and Conservative Party Chairman and Quintessentially co-founder Ben Elliot, his nephew through marriage to Camilla, pictured together in June 2015

Prince Charles and Conservative Party Chairman and Quintessentially co-founder Ben Elliot, his nephew through marriage to Camilla, pictured together in June 2015

Elliot, the son of the Duchess of Cornwall’s sister Annabel, is the founder of concierge firm to the A-list, Quintessentially. 

If you have the wherewithal, Quintessentially will take care of your every lifestyle need, from a restaurant reservation to securing you a seat on a spaceship to Mars should you desire it.

But Elliot is also the co-chairman of the Conservative Party. As such he is both impeccably connected and anxious to monetise those connections in the form of business deals and political or charitable donations.

Under Elliot’s auspices Amersi was granted a tete-a-tete dinner with his uncle, Prince Charles. 

He was then allowed, most graciously, to underwrite some of HRH’s favourite charitable causes to the tune of £1.2million.

He has also been persuaded to pay a total of £524,000 into Conservative Party coffers. 

His glamorous Russian-born partner Nadedza Rodicheva has donated a further £268,000.

Some of these donations – all declared and above board – have been given to the private offices of Conservative big beasts such as Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt and Rory Stewart (£10,000 each).

Amersi no doubt felt his feet were well under the table at both Clarence House and Tory HQ. He was almost one of the family. 

Mohamed Amersi with Prince Charles. His membership of Quintessentially led to a meeting with the prince over an intimate dinner at Dumfries House in Scotland

Mohamed Amersi with Prince Charles. His membership of Quintessentially led to a meeting with the prince over an intimate dinner at Dumfries House in Scotland

But these twin compacts now appear to be in ruins. As a result of an internal row over Amersi’s plans to reshape Tory relations with the Middle East, some within the party asked questions about his past business practises.

Where did his fortune come from exactly, and how? What were his links to Russia and the hostile Iranian regime?

Amersi was outraged. First he began legal action against former MP Charlotte Leslie over memos she allegedly wrote and circulated, containing the allegations. 

He says he is seeking full disclosure of relevant documents before he decides whether or not to sue her for libel.

Now his ire is also being directed at Elliot and other senior figures at Tory HQ. 

They have not supported him in his hour of need, he claims. The hand that fed them £750,000 has been bitten hard in return.

‘I am so disappointed with them,’ he told the Daily Mail last night. 

‘Sometimes I wonder if I was white, my name was John Smith and I had been to Eton and Oxford, I might have been treated differently. I think there is some truth in that.

‘As someone who has given so much money and even advised on election strategy, I am horrified that when something like this happened they did not even have the courtesy and decency to say, ‘‘Mohamed, what can we do to help you. Can we issue a statement supporting you?’’

‘I still love the party, but it cannot be right that when difficulties arise they run for the hills. I certainly did not expect this blue on blue treatment.’

Amersi, 61, comes from a wealthy ‘old merchant family’ based in the Kenyan port city of Mombassa.

At the age of 16 he came to the UK and attended Merchant Taylors’, a public school in Hertfordshire. 

He then studied medicine and law at Sheffield and Cambridge before attending the Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. 

Amersi, 61, comes from a wealthy ¿old merchant family¿ based in the Kenyan port city of Mombassa. At the age of 16 he came to the UK and attended Merchant Taylors¿ (pictured), a public school in Hertfordshire.

Amersi, 61, comes from a wealthy ‘old merchant family’ based in the Kenyan port city of Mombassa. At the age of 16 he came to the UK and attended Merchant Taylors’ (pictured), a public school in Hertfordshire.

He began his career as a corporate lawyer before striking out on his own into the world of international finance.

For much of the last 40 years he has been based in Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, New York and the United Arab Emirates, describing himself as a ‘renowned global communications entrepreneur, philanthropist and thought leader’.

Amersi met his long-term partner Nadedza in New York and has one child with his wife, from whom he is separated. 

He lives in central London and also owns a Grade II-listed Georgian-style manor house in rural Devon.

He told the Mail: ‘I have been fully resident here and a UK taxpayer for the last three to four years. 

Amersi says he first became a client of Quintessentially shortly after it was founded in 2000. He paid £15,000 a year to have ¿elite¿ level membership

Amersi says he first became a client of Quintessentially shortly after it was founded in 2000. He paid £15,000 a year to have ‘elite’ level membership

‘More or less since the time I started donating to the [Tory] Party.’ Along the way he set up the Amersi Foundation, a vehicle for his global philanthropy which is registered in the Bahamas.

He says he first became a client of Quintessentially shortly after it was founded in 2000. 

He paid £15,000 a year to have ‘elite’ level membership. There was nothing oversold about the access this offered.

‘This very top tier was fascinating because we were invited to be exposed to the establishment here, whether it is the royal establishment, Clarence House, St James’s Palace, Buckingham Palace, Dumfries House,’ Amersi told the Sunday Times at the weekend.

Elliot ‘understood what I was trying to do and what my foundation was trying to do.

And then he introduced us to the Prince of Wales, because he saw that there was a role that we could play not only in enhancing some of his work, but also providing some thought leadership.’

In 2013 Quintessentially arranged for him to fly to Scotland to have dinner with Charles at Dumfries House, the Ayrshire stately home which the heir to the throne had saved from dereliction. 

Amersi subsequently provided £130,000 towards its restoration.

The tycoon said he calls this arrangement ‘access capitalism’. ‘You get access, you get invitations, you get privileged relationships, if you are part of the set-up, and where you are financially making a contribution to be a part of that set up. Absolutely.’

In 2013 Quintessentially arranged for him to fly to Scotland to have dinner with Charles at Dumfries House (pictured), the Ayrshire stately home which the heir to the throne had saved from dereliction. Amersi subsequently provided £130,000 towards its restoration

In 2013 Quintessentially arranged for him to fly to Scotland to have dinner with Charles at Dumfries House (pictured), the Ayrshire stately home which the heir to the throne had saved from dereliction. Amersi subsequently provided £130,000 towards its restoration

Almersi has hosted and been hosted by Prince Charles at a number of events since and given more than £1million to his charities. In 2015, he also hosted a polo match in which Prince Harry played.

Elliot saw other opportunities for Amersi’s money, too.

He was ‘seeking donations from me and Nadia for the Conservative party even before he became chair,’ said the tycoon. 

The register shows that the first large donation – £215,000 – was made by Ms Rodicheva in June 2017, during Theresa May’s embattled premiership.

The politician did not forget her benefactor. In 2019 she paid tribute to him at the opening of the Oxford University lecture theatre named in his honour after he paid for its refurbishment.

In his own address Amersi said: ‘You begin by learning how to make money. Then how to hang on to it. And then finally how to give it away.’

But where did the money come from? This question began to be asked in certain Tory circles after a new initiative was announced.

This time, rather than simply give money Amersi would head up a new body called the Conservative Friends of the Middle East and North Africa (Comena). 

It would exist to oversee the party’s relations with the influential region’s powerbrokers.

Amersi told the Mail that he had been approached by Central Office to set up such an affiliate in February 2020. 

He said he had done business in 21 of the 22 countries in the region and had lived in two of them.

So far Amersi has registered Comena as a private company, with himself as sole shareholder. 

He is seeking official affiliation to the Conservative Party and says he will jointly meet the £500,000 per annum costs, along with another major Tory donor.

But there is another Tory group which has occupied this role since 1980: The Conservative-Middle East Council (CMEC). 

This has been run since 2017 by Charlotte Leslie. Sir Nicholas Soames, the former MP, is CMEC’s honorary chairman.

The Conservative-Middle East Council (CMEC) has been run since 2017 by Charlotte Leslie (pictured).

Sir Nicholas Soames (pictured), the former MP, is CMEC¿s honorary chairman.

The Conservative-Middle East Council (CMEC) has been run since 2017 by Charlotte Leslie (pictured left). Sir Nicholas Soames (pictured right), the former MP, is CMEC’s honorary chairman.

In 2019, CMEC ceased to be formally affiliated with the Tory party, allowing it to accept non-Conservatives as members and seek wider funding. 

At least two memos questioning Amersi’s business dealings and loyalties were reportedly sent by Leslie to Soames. They were also seen by Elliot and eventually by the subject himself.

One of the transactions questioned in the memo was the sale in 2005 of the Russian communications company, PeterStar, to a Luxembourg-based conglomerate. Amersi was paid $4million for working on the deal. 

It later emerged that Leonid Reiman, then Putin’s telecoms minister, secretly controlled the Luxembourg company.

It was alleged in the memo – and has been repeated in the financial press – that Amersi knew of Reiman’s ownership at the time.

Last night he absolutely denied this and said all due diligences had been carried out. None had revealed Reiman’s hidden connections.

Amersi told the Mail: ‘They say (in the memos) that I have made my money in Russia in dodgy circumstances and on behalf of the Russian state I am taking over an important asset of British Middle Eastern diplomacy. They have also questioned my connections with Iran, a hostile state.

‘If I have done anything wrong in life I am very happy to accept it. But I have done nothing wrong. All of the transactions mentioned were carried out in a legitimate manner and with regulatory approval. Nothing hidden, nothing sinister, nothing I am ashamed of.

Amersi told the Mail he wanted to apologise to the Prince of Wales for him being drawn into the row

Amersi told the Mail he wanted to apologise to the Prince of Wales for him being drawn into the row

‘This is just a vicious attempt by Nicholas Soames and Charlotte Leslie, supported by some Arab states lobbying behind the scenes to make me appear not fit for purpose for this position.

‘I find myself wasting my time and my money over this. I have retired from business. I do not need any (political) favours or permissions to build. 

‘There is nothing in it for me. The party approached me and asked me to set up an affiliate which had widespread support from senior figures.

‘But when (CMEC) found out they thought ‘‘woah, our franchise is going to be hit hard’’. They took umbrage and Leslie decided she would stop this from happening and so composed an anonymous memo and sent it to 16 parliamentarians, the security services and four members of the Arab diplomatic corps.’

‘(Comena) is not my initiative, but a joint initiative,’ Amersi adds. ‘I was told (by Central office) that they wanted me to form Comena because the previous Mid East friendship group had disaffiliated. That is why I’m involved.’

He said he had not sued Soames only because of his ‘distinguished ancestry’ (his grandfather was Winston Churchill).

Amersi told the Mail he wanted to apologise to the Prince of Wales for him being drawn into the row.

‘My intention was never to embarrass the Royal Family and particularly the Prince of Wales,’ he said. 

‘I have had the privilege of meeting him and serving him on a number of bodies. I have the greatest respect for him and have witnessed his work first hand round the world. I am sorry he has been dragged into this inadvertently.’

He said of his current relationship with Quintessentially: ‘I used to pay £15,000 a year to be an “elite” member. But it simply became a very expensive way to order flowers or book a car. 

‘So In January I downgraded it to become just a “lifestyle” member. That only costs £5,000 per annum.’

Which presents value for money in the high-rolling world of the enigmatic Mohamed Amersi.


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