Conservative MP David Warburton has been found to have breached code of conduct rules over a £150,000 loan he received from Russian-born businessman Roman Joukovski.
The MP, currently suspended by the Tories, failed to properly register the loan received via an off-shore trust in the Seychelles, according to the commissioner for parliamentary standards Kathryn Stone.
The watchdog said he also failed to declare the loan when lobbying in favour of Mr Joukovski in a letter to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
The MP has avoided any punishment, however, with Ms Stone saying the matter was closed after Mr Warburton apologised for breaking the rules.
Mr Warburton was suspended by the Tories in April over allegations of sexual harassment and cocaine use, pending the outcome of a probe by parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS).
In June the standards commissioner launched an investigation into whether he broke the MPs’ code of conduct rules over paid advocacy and failure to declare an interest.
Mr Warburton had claimed that he did not register the 2017 loan because it was “entirely unconnected with my role as an MP”. He also said: “In no way did [the loan] ever influence my words or actions as a member.”
Ms Stone said she was satisfied the loan had “not influenced” Mr Warburton as an MP – but ruled that it should still have been declared in the register of members’ interests.
The standards chief also concluded that the £150,000 loan should have been declared when Mr Warburton wrote to the FCA about Mr Joukovski in March 2021.
The MP had urged the authority to reconsider its assessment of Mr Joukovski after it had refused to certify him as a fit or proper person.
Mr Warburton said the Russian-born businessman was “extremely capable and an honest and straightforward person whom I trust”. He also told the authority he was “happy to provide any further information that might assist the FCA in its assessment of Roman”.
Ms Stone said the letter did not amount to paid advocacy, since the MP was not writing on his behalf. She also judged that the letter was not seeking to confer “a financial or material benefit” on Mr Joukovski.
But she concluded that the loan should still have been declared since an onlooker might “reasonably” have thought that the loan was either influencing the words of Mr Warburton’s letter.
In a letter to Ms Stone, the MP said: “I apologise – again without reservation – for these breaches which, however inadvertent, do amount to material breaches of the code to which members must adhere.”
He also agreed to have the loan belatedly added to the register of members’ interests.
Mr Warburton has brushed off calls to resign – which would plunge the Tory party into another perilous by-election – but has stayed away from the Commons since multiple probes were launched, it is believed.
The Sunday Times published a photo of Mr Warburton sitting next to what was alleged to be lines of cocaine at the home of a younger woman he had met through politics, it was claimed.
Mr Warburton denied any wrongdoing, saying: “I have enormous amounts of defence, but unfortunately the way that things work means that doesn’t come out first.”
The newspaper also first reported on the letter in which he lobbied on behalf of the Russian financier who had given him the £150,000 loan for a holiday rental property.
Ms Stone’s inquiries found that the loan provided by Mr Joukovski through an intermediary company registered in the Seychelles – Castlebrook Associates Limited – was repaid by the MP in March 2022.