Angela Rayner has written to the head of the civil service demanding answers after it emerged that Mark Fullbrook, the Prime Minister’s new chief of staff, was questioned as part of an FBI inquiry involving a previous client.
The deputy Labour leader wrote to Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, this morning after The Times reported on Sunday that Fullbrook was interviewed by the FBI as a witness about the work he did for a banker accused of bribery.
Rayner asked Case to clarify, “in the interest of transparency and out of respect for our democratic institutions”, when he was made aware of the allegations involving Fullbrook and “at what stage was this knowledge shared with the Prime Minister”.
Fullbrook, a senior organiser in the Conservative Party who was appointed as the Downing Street chief of staff after running Truss’ election campaign, has said that he did not break the law and that he was not aware that his then client may have had corrupt motives for hiring him as a consultant.
Fullbrook was working as a political consultant when he provided research in 2020 for Julio Herrera Velutini, a Venezuelan-Italian banker accused of bribing the governor of Puerto Rico around the same time.
Velutini allegedly offered to contribute to Wanda Vázquez Garced’s campaign for re-election as governor of Puerto Rico in return for Vázquez Garced sacking the island’s financial regulator, who was at the time investigating Herrera Velutini’s bank. It is alleged that Velutini offered support worth $300,000.
Commenting on the allegations, Rayner said: “Those who held out the slightest hope that Liz Truss would turn the page on years of Tory sleaze, can already see just weeks into office that she’s already delivering more of the same. She urgently needs to come clean on what she knew and when.
“The new Prime Minister is covering up what she knew about this troubling case. Her judgement is now in the spotlight as the man she appointed to her side less than a fortnight ago is reportedly embroiled in a troubling foreign bribery probe.”
The deputy Labour leader accused the new Prime Minister of having “preserved an ethical vacuum at the heart of Downing Street” and said she is “demonstrating with her actions that she has no intention of restoring the standards in public life that the Tories have spent a decade riding roughshod over”.
“While Labour has a plan to clean up politics with our independent ethics and integrity commission, the Conservatives under Liz Truss show all the signs of letting sleaze fester in No 10,” she added.
Rayner announced last November that Labour would replace the current “alphabet soup of different committees and advisers” with an independent integrity and ethics commission following several standards scandals at the heart of government.
The proposal would have meant a body with the power to ban ministers from lobbying, consultancy or paid work relating to their government jobs for at least five years after leaving office and the party said it would have scandal sparked by ex-environment minister Owen Paterson lobbying on behalf of food companies.
The intervention also followed the Greensill scandal, involving David Cameron, in which the former Prime Minister received £45m in share options from the finance firm in exchange for lobbying government officials and Conservative ministers.
A spokesperson for Fullbrook said: “As has been made repeatedly clear, Mr Fullbrook is committed to and complies with all laws and regulations in any jurisdiction in which he works and is confident that he has done so in this matter.
“Indeed, Mark Fullbrook is a witness in this matter and has fully, completely and voluntarily engaged with the US authorities in this matter, as he would always do in any circumstance in which his assistance is sought by authorities.
“The work was engaged only by Mr Herrera and only to conduct opinion research for him and no one else. Mr Fullbrook never did any work for, nor presented any research findings to, the governor or her campaign.
“There has been no engagement since. Mr Fullbrook understands that there are active legal proceedings against other individuals and entities. It would therefore be inappropriate to comment further.”
Below is the full text of the letter.
Once again, I’m writing to you in the absence of an Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests following the resignation of Lord Geidt, this time in response to deeply concerning reports about the Downing Street new chief of staff.
The values of transparency, honesty and accountability are at the very heart of our democracy. Public officials and those working in and around government play a vital role in upholding public trust in our democratic institutions.
It was therefore hugely concerning to see reports over the weekend that the new Downing Street chief of staff has been interviewed by the FBI over links to an alleged plot to influence a US election. These are incredibly alarming revelations which the public will rightly want clarity on.
Indeed, the allegations about the new Prime Minister’s most senior advisor once again prompt questions about this government’s ethics, values and basic standards of decency. Public trust is already hanging by a thread. These revelations have hallmarks of a government that continues to disregard basic standards of decency, and an utter disregard for British national security. It increasingly looks like more of the same under the new Prime Minister.
In the interest of transparency and out of respect for our democratic institutions, I urge you to clarify when you were first made aware of these allegations? Importantly, at what stage was this knowledge shared with the Prime Minister? Were any declarations made by Mr Fullbrook about his involvement in this investigation when he took on the position of chief of staff?
I look forward to hearing from you on this issue.
Rt Hon Angela Rayner MP
Deputy leader, Labour Party
Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster