Security chiefs are stepping up probes into MPs’ all-party groups amid growing fears that they could be ‘trojan horses’ for Russian, Chinese and other ‘hostile state actors’ to influence the UK Government.
Sources confirmed last night that MI5 had raised fresh alarm over spies infiltrating the huge network of All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) at Westminster.
The move emerged in the wake of fears that Tory MP David Warburton, suspended from the party last week over sex and drugs allegations, could have been targeted by a ‘sting’ operation by hostile foreign powers.
Mr Warburton faced reports that he had asked for Roman Joukovski, a Russian-born businessman who had lent him £150,000, to be added to the mailing list of the APPG on digital currency trading.
The Conservative Party suspended David Warburton after a picture of him sitting alongside what is claimed to be lines of cocaine emerged
The MP also allegedly failed to declare a large loan in 2017 from a Russian businessman, Roman Joukovski, left, to help buy a property. It is claimed that a business Mr Joukovski set up helped Kazakh Nurali Aliyev with a visa
Last night, the Sunday Times also reported that Mr Warburton, chairman of the APPG on music, used official parliamentary notepaper last year to lobby the Financial Conduct Authority to reconsider its assessment of Mr Joukovski’s business credentials.
An inquiry into the regulation of the more than 700 APPGs, which cover everything from individual countries to subjects such as the Armed Forces and the internet, has already been launched by the Commons standards committee.
Alison Giles – Parliament’s director of security – told the inquiry that the ‘relatively unregulated’ groups were ‘very attractive’ for hostile governments.
She also warned how ‘parliamentarians tend to underestimate the extent to which they are of interest to foreign actors’.
The move emerged in the wake of fears that Mr Warburton could have been targeted by a ‘sting’ operation by hostile foreign powers
But last night, a well-placed Westminster source told this newspaper that MI5 chiefs were now turning up the spotlight on the all-party groups. A Cabinet Minister said last night that the groups could be a ‘trojan horse’ for foreign powers to gain access to Parliament and government.
Labour MP and standards committee chairman Chris Bryant said: ‘There is real danger that an APPG could be used by foreign state actors who wish harm to the UK.’
A friend of Mr Joukovski has insisted there was no expectation of favours when he issued the loan to Mr Warburton.
The MP for Somerton and Frome is now to be investigated by the parliamentary harassment watchdog after a detailed series of images, recordings and messages emerged implicating him in unwanted advances to women and the use of Class A drugs. One picture showed the father of two next to what appeared to be lines of cocaine.
The allegations emerged after security services warned MPs to be on heightened alert for efforts at entrapment.
It was understood that a possible link between a foreign Communist party and the release of some of the material implicating Mr Warburton was being investigated.
One senior Tory source said: ‘Some aspects of this look like a right old stitch-up.’
Mr Warburton, who has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital suffering from stress, has defended his conduct, saying: ‘I have enormous amounts of defence.’