UK Prime Minister David Cameron has been challenged to return money paid to the Conservative party by the Chief Executive of a company which admitted paying a Serbian war criminal one million dollars.
In an exchange during Prime Minister’s Questions, SNP MP Angus Robertson listed the crimes committed by Arkan who received the money from Swiss based company Vitol.
Vitol’s Chief Executive Ian Taylor has caused controversy after paying over half a million pounds to the Conservative party and a further half million to the pro-Union campaign Better Together.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Robertson urged the Tory PM to return the money to Mr Taylor who he revealed had also dined with Mr Cameron in the Prime Minister’s official residence in Downing Street.
“Mr Taylor’s company Vitol has admitted dealings with the notorious Serbian war criminal Arkan who was indicted for … ‘wilfully causing great suffering, cruel treatment, murder, wilful killing, rape, and other inhuman acts’.
“Will the Prime Minister stop hosting Mr Taylor at Downing Street and give the money back.”
The question was dismissed by Mr Cameron who called it a totally regrettable “political card”.
The Prime Minister hosted Mr Taylor at a private dinner in Downing Street on 2 November 2011, which was described as a “social dinner for strong and long term supporters of the party, with whom the PM has a strong relationship”.
Commenting after raising the issue in the House of Commons, SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson MP said:
“The UK government is absolutely right to make the combating of sexual violence in conflict its key priority whilst it chairs the G8 – though it’s beyond hypocritical to do so while accepting donations from Mr Ian Taylor, the president and chief executive of Vitol, which gave Arkan $1 million.
“The Prime Minister has received donations and provided hospitality at Number 10 for Mr Taylor, after Vitol who was also heavily fined in 2007 by a New York court after admitting making payments to the national oil company in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq which were outside the UN’s oil for food programme. Vitol is also in talks with HMRC about its tax avoidance practices.
“David Cameron completely ignored the question – laying bare that he has no defence. Labour MP John Mann, a member of the Treasury Select Committee, described Mr Taylor’s donations to the Tories as ‘dirty money’, and has called on the Tories to hand this money back.
“Ian Taylor is also the principal funder of the anti-independence No campaign, giving half-a-million pounds after meeting the No campaign chair Alistair Darling. Both the Tories and No should give the money back.”
The BBC reported that Mr Taylor has donated £555,100 to the Tory Party since June 2006. Mr Taylor is also the principal funder of the anti-independence No campaign, having donated £500,000 following a meeting with the No campaign chair Alistair Darling.
Controversy has surrounded the donation to Better Together after business dealings carried out by his company Vitol emerged. The half million pound donation has caused rifts within the Labour party with former First Minister Henry McLeish questioning whether Labour should have endorsed the donation.
The donations from Mr Taylor to the Conservative party have been denounced as “dirty money” by Labour MP John Mann, who has also called on the Conservatives to return the cash.
However Mr Darling has rejected calls for the No campaign to return the money saying he was “pleased” to have Mr Taylor’s support. Also voicing her support for the Tory backer was Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont who pointed out that Mr Taylor has also invested money in Harris Tweed.
Johann Lamont defends the donation to Better Together
There has also been accusations that the Better Together campaign may have unwittingly benefitted from the proceeds of tax avoidance after it emerged Mr Taylor’s company used a controversial mechanism in order to avoid paying National Insurance and employee income tax to the Inland revenue. The company is currently negotiating with HMRC in order to reach a settlement.