Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to deny an affair with a woman he may have helped secure public funds.
When asked by reporters, the prime minister declined to discuss his relationship with former American businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri.
These questions follow a Sunday Times investigation, which accused Johnson's office of helping tech entrepreneur Arcuri win grants and sponsorships, while he failed to declare a conflict of interest during his time as London’s mayor. According to the investigation, the funds were arranged by Johnson shortly after the pair first met in 2012.
On board a flight to New York City to attend a UN summit, Johnson was asked about the allegations, which he swerved around answering directly. He said:
I’m here to talk about what we’re doing in the UN and this country’s commitment to tackling climate change, and our role in serving as a bridge when it comes to our American and European friends over the crisis in the Gulf.
When asked again, he said:
I’m here as I say to talk about what we’re going to do at the UN.
He also refused to discuss whether suggestions that he had helped misuse public funds should be settled with a public inquiry. When pressed for a final time, he added:
If you forgive me, I am going to talk about exclusively what we’re going to be doing at the UN.
Arcuri reportedly received £10,000 in business grants from an organisation Johnson was responsible for as London Mayor in 2013. She was reportedly given access to three foreign trips in one year, despite not meeting the qualifying criteria. After being turned down for two of the trips, the investigation alleges that Johnson’s team interfered to overturn the decision.
There is no suggestion that Arcuri, who reportedly discussed called Johnson “one of her best friends”, was involved in any wrongdoing. Though as London Mayor Johnson was bound by the Greater London Authority's code of conduct to "declare any private interests" relating to his "public duties".
Arcuri has not commented on her personal relationship with Johnson, but has defended her business conduct, saying:
Any grants received by my companies and any trade mission I joined were purely in respect of my role as a legitimate businesswoman.
Downing Street had declined to comment on the allegations.
On Twitter, people reacted strongly to Johnson's refusal to deny the reports.
This story should be enormous. If the allegations are true, Boris Johnson is guilty of a clear abuse of power and m… https://t.co/0CgXTCI2GH