25 March 2012. Party co-treasurer, Peter Cruddas, sought £250,000 donation from reporters posing as overseas clients in a sting operation carried out by Sunday Times.
During a three month investigations, Sunday Times hired Sarah Southern, a former Cameron aide now working as a lobbyist. She advised that making a large donation would be the easy way to have access to the top Tory politicians.
She arranged a two hour meeting with Peter Cruddas in which he revealed that he could arrange a dinner appointment or meeting with the prime minister or chancellor for a donation of £250,000 to the party’s election campaign funds.
Cruddas gave the impression that the donor could put any request to prime minister or chancellor and the matter would be referred to the policy committee at No 10. The conversation was recorded by the Sunday Times undercover investigators.
Sunday Times further claimed that Cruddas was told that the funds would come from a fund in Liechtenstein that was not eligible to make donations under electoral law. Then the alternatives of creating a British subsidiary or using UK employees as conduits were considered.
The Tory party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas resigned saying that he deeply regretted the repercussions of his “bluster” during the recorded conversations. He added: “Clearly there is no question of donors being able to influence policy or gain undue access to politicians. Specifically, it was categorically not the case that I could offer, or that David Cameron would consider, any access as a result of a donation. Similarly, I have never knowingly even met anyone from the Number 10 policy unit.”
Cruddas, the founder of online trading company Currency Management Consultants, built a £750m fortune through financial spread-betting. He is also a member of the party’s controlling board.
A Tory spokesman added: “No donation was ever accepted or even formally considered by the Conservative party. All donations to the party have to comply with requirements of electoral law, and these are strictly enforced by our compliance department.”