- The UK’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt accepted a donation from a close ally of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, for his bid to become Britain’s next prime minister.
- Ken Costa is described as Bin Salman’s “point man” in the UK. Bin Salman is accused of authorising the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
- Hunt’s rival Boris Johnson has previously accepted a donation from the Saudi government
- The opposition Labour party called on Hunt to return the money.
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LONDON – Jeremy Hunt’s campaign to be Conservative party leader and the United Kingdom’s next prime minister is being partly funded by a close associate to Mohammad Bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, it has been revealed.
Ken Costa, the UK government’s special representative to the Crown Prince’s “Saudi Vision 2030” plan to modernise the Gulf state’s economy, has donated £10,000 to Hunt’s leadership campaign, BuzzFeed reports.
Costa is described as the prince’s “point man” to the UK.
The opposition Labour party said the revelation raised serious questions about the Foreign Secretary’s independence and ability to remain in his post.
“Serious questions need to be raised if the foreign secretary is taking money from Saudi interests to finance his bid to become prime minister,” Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, who sits on the committee for monitoring arms exports, said.
“Hunt needs to give back the money immediately and pledge to not accept future donations that could interfere with his day job of running the foreign office.”
Bin Salman is a highly-controversial figure. A United Nations report found “credible evidence” to say he and other Saudi officials were behind the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey last year.
“It is the conclusion of the special rapporteur that Mr Khashoggi has been the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law,” the UN’s Agnes Callamard said in her conclusions two weeks ago.
Saudi Arabia also has a poor human rights record while its military campaign in Yemen, which the UK has helped support, has violated international law on a number of occasions, including air strikes on civilians, according to Human Rights Watch.
Hunt has previously criticised the Saudi government, as part of his role as foreign secretary, and said its denial of involvement in Khashoggi’s murder was not credible
A spokesperson for Hunt was contacted for comment.
Boris Johnson’s Saudi links
Hunt’s rival in the Conservative party leadership contest, Boris Johnson, has also previously accepted a donation from Saudi Arabia.
Last year Johnson registered £14,000 in flights and hospitality from the Saudi Arabian government for a trip to the country.
The former Foreign Secretary visited the country days before the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
He subsequently authorised arm sales to continue to the country, days after an airstrike by the Saudis on a factory which killed 14 people in 2016.