Prime minister Boris Johnson’s friendship with a US entrepreneur who was granted £126,000 in public money during his time as London mayor is a damaging scandal.
Jennifer Arcuri insisted that grants her companies received were justified and “purely in respect of my role as a legitimate businesswoman”.
Arcuri was fond of boasting about her and Johnson’s strong personal connection. She would show tech industry colleagues messages from the mayor on her union jack-clad phone, and stored his number under the name, “Alex the Great”.
In October 2013, the mayor’s promotional agency, London & Partners, granted Arcuri’s company £10,000 in sponsorship.
Another £1,500 was to follow.
She was given preferential treatment to ensure she could join three trade delegations led by Johnson. He insisted that she join the delegations, even though her initial applications to take part were refused.
The then-married Johnson found time in his busy mayoral schedule to frequently pop round to Arcuri’s flat.
Johnson said, “I’m very proud of what we did and I can tell you absolutely, that everything was done with complete propriety and in the normal way.”
In March 2014 Arcuri posted a photograph of herself sitting in the mayor’s office at City Hall, headquarters of the Greater London Authority (GLA). Her message read, “The boss’s chair at GLA—oh today was fun!”
In November 2014, Arcuri was a delegate on Johnson’s trade mission to Singapore and Malaysia.
She also met Johnson during his trade mission to New York in February 2015. Eight months later she was on a trade mission to Tel Aviv.
In January this year one of her businesses, Hacker House, was awarded a £100,000 grant.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is investigating the circumstances surrounding the award.