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The socialite wife of a former Putin minister who has donated more than £2million to the British Conservative Party allegedly for close access to the past three prime ministers was listed as a director of a company secretly owned by an oligarch close to the Russian tyrant, according to reports.
Russian-born Lubov Chernukhin, whose multi-millionaire businessman husband Vladimir Chernukhin served under Putin as a deputy finance minister before he was sacked by the dictator in 2004 and fled Russia, has donated millions to the Tory Party since 2012.
The banker, who has British citizenship, once played tennis with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his old Etonian rival David Cameron, and also once had dinner with Theresa May while she was in Downing Street.
Documents dated 2006 and signed ‘Lubov Golubeva’, Mrs Chernukhin’s maiden name, now appear to show that the Conservative Party donor was made a director of a secret firm owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov.
According to a BBC investigation, the papers appear to show that Mrs Chernukhin, then Lubov Golubeva, was appointed a director of offshore firm Radlett Estates Limited in 2005 – following its acquisition of a substantial property, 1 Radlett Place, in north London.
Another company called Swiru Holding AG was the sole shareholder of Radlett Estates, whose directors were Swiss businessman Alexander Studhalter and Mr Kerimov’s nephew, Nariman Gadzhiev. Mr Studhalter was previously accused in a French court of being a proxy for Mr Kerimov and was involved in hiding the oligarch’s wealth.
The BBC reports that Radlett Estates planned to demolish the building and construct a new 3,500 sq ft home containing a cinema, a health spa and gym, indoor swimming pool, a map room, six bedrooms and a ‘6 car motorised garage and large staff quarters’.
Mr Kerimov and his wife were not listed as directors of Radlett Estates and their names were not on the planning documents. But one designer’s website identified the clients as ‘Mr and Mrs K’, the BBC report claims.
The signature ‘Lubov Golubeva’ appears on a Radlett Estates board meeting document from 2006. It records her resignation from the company.
Mrs Chernukhin said that she ‘does not recall consenting in writing’. Mr Kerimov, now sanctioned, has previously denied any connection with Mrs Chernukhin.
Russian-born Lubov Chernukhin, whose multi-millionaire businessman husband Vladimir Chernukhin served under Putin as a deputy finance minister before he was sacked in 2004, has donated millions to the Tory Party since 2012
Vladimir Chernukhin pictured meeting Vladimir Putin
Suleiman Kerimov during a plenary meeting of the Russian Federation Council, December 11, 2018
Boris Johnson pictured sitting morosely in the House of Commons on April 19, 2022
Theresa May with Ministers, fellow guests and Tory donor Lubov Chernukhin (circled)
Russian donations row as it emerges Boris Johnson was at Conservative fundraiser attended by wife of ex-Putin minister on the eve of Ukraine invasion
Boris Johnson addresses delegates during the Conservative Party Spring Conference at Blackpool Winter Gardens on March 19, 2022
Boris Johnson has been accused of being a ‘threat to national security’ following reports he was at a Tory party fundraising event on the night Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine.
The Prime Minister gave a short speech at the event as Russian forces prepared to launch their assault.
The Sunday Times reported that donors at the event included Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of a former Russian deputy finance minister who is now a British citizen.
Mr Johnson reportedly gave an introductory speech at the event, which began at around 8pm on February 23 at Spencer House, around a mile from Downing Street. The Prime Minister was present for around 20 minutes according to No 10.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Communities Secretary Michael Gove were also at the event, the Sunday Times reported.
Back in Downing Street, at around 4am on February 24 Mr Johnson was woken with the news that Russia had launched the invasion that the West had feared for weeks.
A No 10 spokesman told the newspaper: ‘The Prime Minister briefly attended this event which was a longstanding diary engagement.
‘Fundraising is a legitimate part of our democratic process and it is not unusual for the Prime Minister, or any political leader, to attend such an event.’
With her husband, Mrs Chernukhin is estimated to be worth at least £200million, and in recent years has used a portion of her wealth to buy access to senior Conservatives.
In 2019 at the Black and White ball, the highlight of the Tory fundraising calendar, she successfully bid £135,000 to spend an evening with Theresa May. She also bid £45,000 for tennis games with Boris Johnson and Ben Elliot and £30,000 for a private meal with Gavin Williamson.
In April 2019, after donating another £135,000 at a separate fund-raiser, she was pictured enjoying a night out with former Prime Minister May and six female Cabinet members at the exclusive Goring Hotel in London’s Belgravia.
According to an article in the The Times in 2020, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis was listed as having personally received £25,000 from Ms Chernukhin. Former party chairman Mr Lewis said at the time that the donations given to him were ‘properly declared’.
The Cabinet minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in July 2020: ‘I think we need to be fairly clear about this so we don’t get the facts wrong – these are British citizens. They are properly declared, we do not accept funds from foreign nationals.
‘These are British citizens and I would absolutely defend the right of any British citizen, including the people you’ve outlined who have donated to myself and others, to play their full part in our democracy.
‘That doesn’t just mean voting, that means supporting, if they want to, political parties and political candidates, and I’m very proud of the fact that, as a country, we allow British citizens to do that.’
At the time, the Tory Party insisted she was not a ‘Putin crony’ after she donated more than £1million over seven years.
Mr Johnson was challenged about the Chernukhins’ £160,000 tennis match donation in 2018 when he was foreign secretary. He told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘If there is evidence of gross corruption in the way that gentleman… obtained his wealth… then it’s possible for our law enforcement agencies to deprive him of his wealth.’
But he added ‘all possible checks have been made and… will continue to be made’ on donations.
Born in 1972 to Russian parents, Mrs Chernukhin appears to have spent a portion of her early years in Kazakhstan, the resource-rich Soviet republic which became independent after the break-up of the USSR.
Sources in Moscow told the Mail that her construction engineer father was posted there. His earnings helped provide Mrs Chernukhin with a good education in the US – getting an MBA at the prestigious Stern School in New York. At some point, she also married and divorced.
Mrs Chernukhin’s professional career – she has described herself variously as a ‘banker’, ‘investment director’ and ‘management consultant’ – is believed to have then included spells at major international banks, including America’s JP Morgan Chase and Holland’s ABN Amro.
When she first established a base in the UK, buying a flat in a converted factory development in the City of London in 2003, she and her then domestic partner, a Swedish businessman, paid £499,999.
Her prospects changed dramatically a few years later when she fell in love with mega-rich Vladimir Chernukhin. Her first donations to the Tory Party (just over £5,000) were made in her maiden name shortly before she married the oligarch in 2007.
Vladimir, a former Putin crony, had quietly become a ‘non-domiciled’ foreign resident of the UK (a status that means he legally avoids paying British tax on earnings that remain outside the country) some time around 2005.
Mrs Chernukhin, right, with singer Valeriya, centre, in London
Putin chairs a meeting at the Catherine Hall of the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, April 20, 2022
By the time the couple married, he was a fully paid-up member of the ‘Chelski set’ of uber-wealthy Russians based in London.
A humble civil servant during the Soviet era, Mr Chernukhin appears to have made wealthy and influential contacts during the free-for-all that followed the fall of Communism in the early Nineties.
He secured an executive role at Russia’s state-owned development bank, Vnesheconombank, and also seems to have cut deals with young businessmen such as Roman Abramovich – whom he described in a later court deposition as a ‘friend’.
When Putin achieved power, in 1999, Chernukhin’s connections saw him appointed deputy finance minister. Just 31, he quickly earned the nickname ‘Putin’s Protégé’.
The Chernukhins are believed to own a vast £18million property overlooking Regent’s Park and a second £10million Kensington flat. They also seem to boast villas near St Tropez in the South of France. These are registered to holding companies in Guernsey, Madeira, Portugal and Switzerland.
US trying to seize a $325million superyacht owned by Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov from Fiji as Biden considers more sanctions on the Kremlin’s inner circle
United States authorities have launched an effort to seize a superyacht docked in the Pacific waters of Fiji which is believed to belong to Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov.
He has been sanctioned by the US and the European Union as part of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and was one of the billionaires pictured with the Russian president as tanks crossed into Ukraine.
A restraining order filed on Tuesday by Fiji’s director of public prosecutions showed local authorities had moved to block the $325million Amadea from leaving its waters. The vessel arrived in Fiji a week ago after leaving Mexico 18 days earlier and crossing the Pacific. Police are investigating.
The US Embassy said it was working with local authorities.
‘We continue to ratchet up the pressure on Putin’s oligarchs and we are working with allies and partners to go after corrupt gains from some of the individuals closest to Putin, no matter where they are held around the world,’ the embassy told the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The Amadea arrived in at the Queens Wharf in Lautoka, Fiji, last week. Fijian authorities on April 19 applied to block the superyacht from leaving its waters
The Amadea is believed to be owned by Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, a gold baron and confidant of Vladimir Putin who has already been sanctions by the U.S. and European Union
Kerimov is seen on the far left with Putin (center) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Moscow in 2015 at a ceremony at the Moscow Cathedral Mosque
Kerimov, 56, made his money in gold and was already under international sanctions for his role as an elected member of Russia’s parliament before the invasion of Ukraine.
He is one of a string of billionaires whose assets – including luxury vessels and villas – and being targeted by the US and its allies as they try to isolate Putin and his regime. The Biden administration has signaled it is ready to impose more sanctions as it tries to make the Russian leader think again.
Fiji’s director of public prosecutions, Christopher Pryde, filed an application to the High Court seeking to prevent the Amadea from leaving Fiji.
The application requested ‘the motor yacht Amadea be restrained from leaving Fijian waters until the finalisation of an application to register a warrant to seize the property and (ii) that a US warrant to seize the Amadea be registered’.
The court has not heard the application.
A superyacht agent in Fiji acting for the Amadea told Reuters last week the vessel’s lawyers were contesting that Suleiman was the owner.
Source: Daily Mail