The Prime Minister will not face a criminal investigation into his dealings with a former model while he was Mayor of London, despite a police watchdog finding a “close association” between the pair.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found there may have been an “intimate relationship” between Boris Johnson and tech entrepreneur Jennifer Arcuri but will not proceed with a probe into allegations that he used his position at City Hall to benefit her.
As the decision was announced, the London Assembly swiftly said it would resume its own investigation into allegations that Ms Arcuri received thousands of pounds in public money and privileged access to three foreign trade trips led by Mr Johnson when he headed City Hall.
Neither the PM nor Ms Arcuri have denied that they were involved in an affair.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: “We welcome the fact that this politically motivated complaint has been thrown out. Such vexatious claims of impropriety in office were untrue and unfounded.
“An independent review by the Government Internal Audit Agency similarly showed the claims made by the Labour Party were false. This was not a policing matter, and we consider this was a waste of police time.”
The IOPC, which announced the decision today, spent months scoping out whether Mr Johnson had a case to answer for after he was formally referred to them in September
Mr Johnson was the head of the mayor’s office for policing and crime when Ms Arcuri accompanied him on three trade missions and her companies received £126,000 in public money.
It was also alleged that the former mayor’s office intervened to secure Ms Arcuri a place on trade missions to Tel Aviv and New York with Mr Johnson after she had been turned down for failing to meet the criteria.
A decision had been expected before the 2019 December general election and opposition parties have criticised the watchdog for delays over the decision. The IOPC has strenuously denied claims it stalled the decision until after the election.
The Prime Minister has insisted that he acted with “full propriety” and refused to answer questions about whether he had a sexual relationship with Ms Arcuri when he was mayor. However, during interviews in November 2019, Ms Arcuri accused the prime minister of treating her like “some fleeting one-night stand”.
The police watchdog said the Greater London Authority (GLA) should consider whether Mr Johnson breached the code of conduct for failing to declare his relationship with Jennifer Arcuri.
The IOPC said the GLA code of conduct which applied at the time meant that, even if the relationship was intimate, Mr Johnson had no obligation to include Ms Arcuri’s business interests in his own register of interests.
But it added that under the broader Nolan Principles of Public Life, contained within the GLA code of conduct, “it would have been wise for Mr Johnson to have declared this as a conflict of interest”, and a failure to do so could have constituted a breach of these principles.
As this does not amount to a potential criminal offence, this is now a matter for the GLA to consider, the IOPC said.
Len Duvall, the Greater London Authority’s oversight committee chair, said: “The IOPC was looking specifically at whether he committed a criminal offence. That’s not our remit and their decision doesn’t have any real bearing on our investigation, which will focus on his conduct as Mayor of London.
“Everyone who holds public office, whether you’re the mayor of London, or indeed the prime minister, is expected to adhere to the principles of public life – including integrity, selflessness, openness and honesty, to name a few.
“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.
“The oversight committee will take into account the current emergency when looking at the timetable for the investigation.”
IOPC director general Michael Lockwood said: “The IOPC completed a thorough, independent and impartial assessment to determine if there were reasonable grounds to suspect the criminal offence of misconduct in public office had occurred.
“We found no evidence to indicate that Mr Johnson influenced the payment of any sponsorship monies to Ms Arcuri or that he influenced or played an active part in securing her participation in trade missions.
“While there was no evidence that Mr Johnson influenced the payment of sponsorship monies or participation in trade missions, there was evidence to suggest that those officers making decisions about sponsorship monies and attendance on trade missions thought that there was a close relationship between Mr Johnson and Ms Arcuri, and this influenced their decision-making.”