A Tory MP has claimed the founder of pro-Brexit think-tank the Legatum Institute was under suspicion of having worked for Russian intelligence services.
Speaking under the protection of parliamentary privilege on Tuesday, Bob Seely said he and four other MPs had seen documents linking billionaire Christopher Chandler with the Kremlin.
The Legatum Institute has described the claims as “complete nonsense”
Seely said he was making the accusation public in order to battle the “malign influence of authoritarian states” such as Russia which present “a real and present danger to our nation”.
The Isle of Wight MP said the documents, originally from Monaco, were “brief, terse, factual files listing activities, associations and judicial actions”.
“The documents link a noted individual in this country with Russian intelligence,” he said.
“These files are dated from 2005. They cover the period from the mid 1990s.
“They have been authenticated by senior French intelligence sources and by British and American counterparts familiar with their contents.”
He said: “Mr Chandler is described as having been ‘an object of interest to the DST since 2002 on suspicion of working for Russian intelligence services’.”
The Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST) was the French equivalent of MI5 until 2008 when it was merged with another agency.
A spokesperson for the Legatum Institute said: “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.
“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.”
The Legatum Institute has close links with the government and advocates for a so-called hard Brexit.
One of Legatum’s former advisers, Crawford Falconer, is now the UK chief trade negotiator.
Matthew Elliott, who served as chief executive of the Vote Leave campaign, was made a Legatum Institute senior fellow last year.