MP raises pro-Brexit group founder's Russia links

By Jon Craig, Chief Political Correspondent
A Conservative MP has used parliamentary privilege to accuse the founder of a pro-Brexit think tank of links with Russian intelligence.
Bob Seely told MPs Christopher Chandler, who launched the Legatum Institute, was an "object of interest" to French intelligence in 2002.
The think tank immediately denied the claim, saying Mr Chancellor had never been associated with Russian intelligence or the Russian state.Mr Seely, MP for the Isle of Wight, is an author and former soldier, journalist and academic who has written a book about Russia's involvement in the Caucasus.Mr Chandler is a New Zealand-born billionaire who in 2006 founded the Legatum Institute, a think tank credited with helping shape Government policy on Brexit.The MP made his allegation against Mr Chandler as MPs debated the Government's Sanctions and Anti-Money Landering Bill in the Commons.Referring to files which he said were dated 2005 and covered the period from the mid-1990s, Mr Seely said: "These documents are brief, terse, factual files listing activities, associations and judicial action."They have been authenticated by senior French intelligence sources and by British and American counterparts familiar with their contents."The documents indicated a link to a noted individual in this country with Russian intelligence."These files are dated from 2005. They cover the period from the mid-1990s. The documents concern Christopher Chandler and his brother."Christopher Chandler is a public figure owing to the Legatum Institute."According to the French security services, as recorded by their colleagues in Monaco, and clearly I'm confident these documents are genuine, Mr Chandler is described as having been 'an object of interest to the DST since 2002 on suspicion of working for Russian intelligence services'."
MP raises pro-Brexit group founder's Russia links

Bob Seely MP used parliamentary privilege to make his accusation
Mr Seely added: "Christopher Chandler's personal file is marked file code 'S', a DST marker indicating - if I understand correctly - a high or higher level of threat to France."In France now the letter 'S' is used to designate radical Islam, in Monaco then it was used to designate counter-espionage."Mr Seely said he was not criticising Legatum Institute staff nor MPs who had dealt with the think tank, adding: "I've thought long and hard before making this statement but I've done so because I's in the national interest to do so."If people like Mr Chandler are vulnerable to malign influence - maybe he's an innocent party in this, who knows - especially if that information on them is covert, that matters to our democracy."The MP continued: "It may be that Mr Chandler can provide a satisfactory explanation or argue these relationships - if they existed - are now historic, or are somehow misrepresented in the documents."Later in the debate, former Labour minister Liam Byrne described the Legatum Institute as having "enjoyed unrivalled access to minsters in one of the most important national debates that we are considering in this country".He told MPs: "And the risk, I put it no stronger than this, the risk that we are running at the moment is that this support is financed from sources that derive from the Russian republic and therefore it may be part of the panoply of active measures that have been drawn together since the re-election of President Putin in 2012."But, a Legatum Institute spokesman hit back: "Christopher Chandler has never been associated directly or indirectly with Russian intelligence or the Russian state."Neither Christopher Chandler nor anyone at Legatum is aware of any such alleged 'investigation' by French authorities, not 16 years ago or at any time since.
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"To be clear Christopher Chandler has never been approached at any time by the French or any other authorities regarding Russia and maintains a sterling record of ethical business practices earned over many decades."These accusations are complete nonsense, and have been previously rebutted by the Legatum Group."
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