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‘He’s A Great Guy’: Kwasi Kwarteng Told Fake Firm He Could Introduce Them To Boris Johnson

Kwasi Kwarteng told representatives of a fake South Korean firm that he could introduce them to Boris Johnson – the “best campaigner you will ever see” – in the hope of securing a £10,000-a-day second job.

Kwarteng also indicated that Conservative whips would allow him to skip his parliamentary duties in order to further the interests of the fake firm, after apparently being duped by the campaign group Led By Donkeys.

The former chancellor was one of four Conservative MPs filmed in their parliamentary offices attending a preliminary meeting held on behalf of the firm with a view to securing paid work alongside their £84,000-a-year MP’s salary.

Boasting of his political career, Kwarteng said he could introduce foreign businessmen working for the firm, which does not exist, to Johnson, the former prime minister.

In a Zoom call with an undercover reporter from Led By Donkeys, Kwarteng said: “I’m a senior politician, we [have] got a majority of 70, we have whips. I can work with them to make sure that … as long as the meetings don’t [go on for] a whole week, I’m sure I can make that work.”

Describing Johnson as a huge asset, the former chancellor said he could not promise a meeting between Johnson and the fake firm, but added: “He’s someone I know, he’s a great guy.”

Questioned on whether he would be able to balance his role as an MP with flying around the world to attend board meetings, Kwarteng said: “I can do that. I’m very flexible. I would say [in] my generation in the UK, there are very few people who had the breadth of experience I’ve had across business and politics at this level.”

A source close to Johnson said he was not made aware of the conversation between Kwarteng and the fake businessman and no contact was made with him. The source added that he had never authorised anyone to act on his behalf in this way.

The former health secretary Matt Hancock also agreed to work for £10,000, while Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the Conservative 1922 Committee, said a rate of about £6,000 a day “feels about right” and that any payments would be on a public register.

A fourth MP who was approached, the former minister Stephen Hammond, said this weekend he considered he had been the victim of a “scam”. He said he thought he was engaged in a preliminary discussion with a company but “it turns out this company was fake, with a fake website”.

Hancock’s spokesperson said he had acted “entirely properly” and criticised what he described as the “illegal publication of a private conversation”.

Thangam Debbonaire, the shadow leader of the Commons, called on Rishi Sunak to remove the whip from the Tories caught up in the sting.

The senior politicians have complied with all relevant rules and referred to their obligation to their constituents during preliminary meetings.

The levelling up secretary, Michael Gove, called on MPs to “reflect” on the sting operation, saying elected officials needed to ensure they were doing “everything they can to put public service first”, but he insisted they were acting “within the rules”.

Led By Donkeys said it created the company, called Hanseong Consulting, setting up a website that included fabricated testimonials and paying for a “fake virtual office” in the South Korean capital, Seoul.

The group said that after consulting the register of interests, it approached 20 MPs from different parties asking if they would join the phoney firm’s international advisory board.

The shadow culture secretary, Lucy Powell, said she was “pretty appalled and sickened” by the revelations. Labour has pledged to ban MPs from having second jobs, and Powell said MPs should be “fully focused” on helping constituents rather than “pursuing other commercial ends”.

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