Jennifer Arcuri was in a hotel room in Tel Aviv when her phone lit up with a text from Alexander the Great – her lover’s codename.
Everyone else on the taxpayer-funded trade mission knew him as Boris Johnson, Mayor of London.
But by then, in November 2015, Jennifer says she and the future PM were into the fourth year of their affair.
The text contained a “desperate” plea for Jennifer to send a picture to Johnson – still married at the time.
She says the politician was dejected after Palestinian officials cancelled a string of meetings after he criticised a boycott of Israeli goods.
Jennifer says Johnson, 56, turned to her for comfort – not for the first time.
Texts seen by the Mirror show they discussed meeting at the King David Hotel, where Johnson was a guest of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
But as Jennifer, 35, was in the Dan Panorama in Tel Aviv – an hour away – their plans were thwarted.
Undeterred, Johnson wanted to see pictures of Jennifer, texting: “Photo x.”
She asks playfully: “Is that a statement or a request? ;-)”. Johnson replies: “It is a desperate request xxx.”
Jennifer says she obliged by sending him a raunchy photograph.
She reveals: “That is a classic illustration of him being burnt out on these trips. He screwed up and meetings were cancelled.
“I remember him being emotionally needy and wanting pictures. It was playful banter. These little things reveal more about the man, everybody has a weak moment.
“He’s far from home, he doesn’t have a lot of friends he can trust, count on and rely on. It made sense he reached out to me, on a human level.”
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Jennifer alleges it wasn’t the first time her lover tried to see her alone while abroad on mayoral business.
Records show he was gifted a suite in the Lexington Hotel while on a trip to New York in February 2015.
Jennifer says he was staying in the room where screen icon Marilyn Monroe lived during her brief marriage to Joe DiMaggio in 1954.
Rates normally start at £865 a night and, Jennifer says, Johnson was desperate to show her around.
He was also licking his wounds after a tense meeting with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – who he had previously criticised in an article.
Jennifer recalls: “He was like, ‘I need you, where are you? Come over’. He’s talking about the Monroe suite.”
But Jennifer believes civil servants deliberately kept them apart and she says Johnson cancelled their meeting and sent her this “over-the-top” text: “We are busted to high heaven. Alas, I am ringed by invigilators.”
Jennifer says a Johnson aide looked at her and said: “We’ve got to get you out of here.” She goes on: “I knew he probably told someone he was having a drink with me, he probably tried to duck out of something – then got in trouble. I was humiliated. I thought, ‘I’m not here to play your second hand in New York City. You can see me when you get home. I’m not playing this game’. I was very down at myself for making myself too available.
“The next day, he was like, ‘I’m so sorry, proper dinner, how about a drink tomorrow evening?’ I said, ‘If you want to see me you’re going to have to find me back in London’. I was so distraught because I was so excited to talk to him about New York.”
Jennifer’s presence on trade trips became an issue after the friendship emerged. An ongoing probe is looking at whether or not a code of conduct was breached. She claims she knew little of any obligations on him to declare his private interests.
Ahead of the first trip – to Malaysia and Singapore, in November 2014 – she learned a “salacious” story about the pair had been leaked to the press.
She says she alerted advisers and offered to withdraw.
But she was allowed to go and the story never ran. Jennifer says she raised the issue because “Boris was freaking out”.
She explains: “I said, ‘Look, there is a potential story that would jeopardise my integrity on this trip, that potentially could be salacious and gossip and lots of things. “God only knows what it says about Boris and I’. They kind of knew what that would entail. I mean, his past spoke loads. I said, ‘I’m fully prepared to back out, should you think I’m too much of an embarrassment’.”
She claims one adviser said “that’s ridiculous, absolutely not” – and that a second added “until there was a story, there was nothing to be worried about”. News of the friendship finally broke in the Sunday Times on September 22, 2019.
Johnson made no comment. The following week, the paper said Jennifer had told friends the relationship was sexual. Quizzed that day by the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Johnson was asked if he should have declared an interest.
He did not deny a sexual relationship but said: “What I can tell you is I was very, very proud of everything that we did in City Hall to promote the public interest and the interests of London and everything was done in accordance with the code… everything was done with full propriety.
“There was no interest to declare. Let’s be absolutely clear, I am very, very proud of everything I did as Mayor of London.”
He has faced questions that Jennifer appeared to have been selected for trips despite not meeting criteria. She insists she was only an official delegate for Singapore and Malaysia, as director of a video tech company called Playbox. The Sunday Times said participants were expected to pay for travel but other costs were picked up by the taxpayer and that the trade mission cost the public purse £35,000.
Delegates had to be from established firms, but Playbox was founded three months before Jennifer applied.
But she says: “They wanted the best and brightest of London, there was no one better selling the city than I was. There may have been a checklist, of course – but I could be part of this and bring a great piece of tech. I could be talking and selling London. The benefits outweighed their checklist.”
London and Partners, the mayoral promotional agency, have said Jennifer was chosen because of her “wider entrepreneurial success” – but Playbox folded the following year.
Boris Johnson faces an inquiry by the Greater London Authority – responsible for the mayor’s office – over claims his failure to declare his relationship with Arcuri may have been a breach of the Nolan Principles of Public Life, which are contained in the Mayor of London’s code of conduct.
Arcuri was granted access to events at three top level trade missions, despite her businesses not meeting the criteria for the trips.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct said there was no evidence he’d committed the criminal offence of misconduct in public office but he may have breached the Nolan Principles.
Len Duvall, the chair of the GLA oversight committee which is conducting the investigation said: “Our investigation will consider whether Boris Johnson conducted himself in a way that’s expected from anyone in that position.
“It’s important we get those answers, because Londoners deserve to have their politicians held accountable.”
Jennifer says she shelved Playbox to focus on her growing interest in cyber security. She says she travelled independently to join the US and Israel delegations as a respected member of the London tech community. The New York trip was for companies in financial technology. Jennifer’s were not. But an email uncovered by the Sunday Times read: “Please put her on the list for tech event in NY. I assume she will stay on and do the TLA/Innovate Finance event. She has been speaking to Boris and [a senior aide]. They are happy apparently. We should treat her as simply another member of the London tech community.”
Jennifer says there was “never anything unprofessional, uncouth or to be questioned” about the NY trip.
She claims London and Partners asked her to help source firms for an event where Johnson spoke. And she adds: “I was given specific instructions to find the best and brightest that are going to come to London and reciprocate. I had spoken to Boris. I said, ‘This is going to be amazing, I’m going to be in New York, you’re going to be in New York. You can’t screw that up’.”
By the time of the Israel mission, Jennifer had funded a new company which specialised in cyber security.
Jennifer says she paid for her flight and hotel. She explains: “I was hellbent on going. No one does security better than the Israelis. If I didn’t have a big corporation around me, I wanted to at least go under the guise of the trade mission. It just so happened to align with the Boris Johnson mission. I said to London and Partners, ‘I’ll just go when you go and we can make it a whole thing’. I went to the High Commissioner event in Tel Aviv and the Google event.
“I’m front and centre, shaking everybody’s hands, making friends with the doorknob, just to get the companies to come to London. Give me a good garden wall, I’d make them invest in London by the end of the night. No one told me no.”
Probe will rule on his ‘integrity and honesty’
A second probe into Boris Johnson’s conduct as Mayor of London will examine “honesty and integrity” in his official dealings with Jennifer Arcuri.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct has ruled no criminality and “no evidence indicating Mr Johnson influenced payment or influenced or played an active part in securing her participation in trade missions”.
The IOPC would not comment today on Jennifer’s claims about her affair with Boris. But it referred to its earlier findings, which said: “There was evidence to suggest officers making decisions about sponsorship monies and trade missions thought there was a close relationship and this influenced their decision making.
“Our review established a close association between Mr Johnson and Ms Arcuri and there may have been an intimate relationship. Even if the relationship was intimate, Mr Johnson had no obligation to include Ms Arcuri’s business interests in his own register of interests. However, under the Nolan Principles of Public Life, our review suggests it would have been wise for Mr Johnson to have declared this as a conflict of interest.”
The Greater London Authority is now probing a potential breach of the Nolan Principles – a code requiring selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. Officials are told: “Holders of public office should not gain financial or other benefits for themselves, family or friends.”
The probe will consider if Jennifer had “preferential treatment” and any conflict of interest. Len Duvall, chair of the GLA oversight committee, has previously said it will also consider whether the PM “conducted himself in a way expected”.
An inquiry into a £100,000 government grant given to Jennifer’s cyber security firm found the payment was “appropriate”.
‘Sadist’ Hillary hoo-hah
The New York trade trip in February 2015 was marred too after remarks Johnson made about Hillary Clinton were dragged up.
In an article in 2007, he likened Mrs Clinton to a “sadistic nurse in a mental hospital” and said she represented “everything I came into politics to oppose” – including an “all-round purse-lipped political correctness”.
He said he’d like her to win the 2016 presidential race so husband Bill could be back in the White House. On seeing Mr Johnson, Mrs Clinton quipped: “Oh my goodness. Is he announcing for President?” She fixed him with her steely eyes and welcomed him. Asked later he said: “She was extremely kind and gracious.”
Bungle on West Bank
The Middle East trade mission in 2015 descended into farce when Boris blundered into the sensitive territory of regional politics.
A West Bank visit unravelled after he criticised calls for a boycott of Israeli goods. He described the campaign as “completely crazy” and promoted by “corduroywearing, snaggle-toothed lefty academics”. Organisers axed a series of meetings after his words were denounced by Palestinians, leading to fears of protests.
The only meeting to proceed on his arrival in Ramallah was with then Palestinian PM Hamdallah.
Foreign Office officials were left trying to repair the damage after his undiplomatic choice of words.
- Read Jennifer Arcuri’s full story in the Sunday Mirror, in shops on Sunday.