U.K. PM Johnson: No impropriety in my relationship with U.S. businesswoman

MANCHESTER, England, Oct 1 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday there had been no impropriety in his relationship with a U.S. businesswoman which is now subject to a possible misconduct investigation.

The government of London said on Friday it had referred Johnson to Britain’s police watchdog for potential investigation over allegations of misconduct involving tech entrepreneur Jennifer Arcuri while he was mayor of London.

"I can tell you there was no impropriety as far as I'm concerned," Johnson said when asked about the allegations on LBC Radio.

Asked why the allegations had surfaced, he linked them to those who wanted to stop him from delivering Brexit.

"I think there's a very good reason, and that is that I've been tasked, one way or the other, to get Brexit done by Oct. 31, and there are quite a lot of well meaning, and highly intelligent people, who basically think that would be something they don't want to see," he said.

"And I think that there is a concerted effort now to frustrate Brexit."

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Boris Johnson at his party's annual conference this week
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Boris Johnson at his party's annual conference this week
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives for interviews at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Boris Johnson said Tuesday that his government prepared at last to make firm proposals for a new divorce deal with the European Union. Britain is due to leave the 28-nation bloc at the end of this month, and EU leaders are growing impatient with the U.K.'s failure to set out detailed plans for maintaining an open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland — the key sticking point to a deal. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts as he listens to Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer, as he delivers his speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. The Conservative Party is holding its annual party conference as scheduled. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson applauds as he listens to Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer, as he delivers his speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. The Conservative Party is holding its annual party conference as scheduled. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel walk towards the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel walk towards the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a thumb up after Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer, delivered his speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Delegates spend their lunch break outside at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced political opposition and personal allegations Monday as he tried to fulfil his pledge to lead Britain out of the European Union in just over a month. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson enters the hall to do morning interviews at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. (Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives for the third day of the Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central on October 1, 2019 in Manchester, England. Despite Parliament voting against a government motion to award a recess, Conservative Party Conference still goes ahead. Parliament will continue with its business for the duration. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen outside the venue for the Conservative Party annual conference in Manchester, Britain October 1, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen outside the venue for the Conservative Party annual conference in Manchester, Britain October 1, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
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On Friday, the Greater London Authority (GLA) said it had referred a "conduct matter" concerning Johnson to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which investigates complaints connected to the police.

The referral follows allegations, first reported by The Sunday Times, that when Johnson was mayor, he failed to declare close personal links to Arcuri, who received thousands of pounds in public business funding and places on official trade trips.

Asked about the referral, Johnson's spokesman told Reuters: "The prime minister as mayor of London did a huge amount of work when selling our capital city around the world, beating the drum for London and the UK.

"Everything was done with propriety and in the normal way."

Arcuri did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

The matter has been referred to the police watchdog because Johnson was head of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, a role equivalent to a police commissioner, during his 2008-2016 term as mayor.

'A failure to safeguard the public purse'

Under the referral, the authority will try to determine whether there are grounds for a full investigation that could lead to criminal charges of misconduct in public office.

In a letter to Johnson, the GLA said: “Subject to any explanation provided by you, these matters give rise to a suggestion that there has been a failure to safeguard the public purse and if so that amounts to a significant breach of public trust.

“These are the ingredients of the offense of misconduct in a public office.”

The letter said Innotech, Arcuri’s then company, received £11,500 ($14,000) from London & Partners, the mayor’s promotional agency, for two events in 2013 and 2014. She was able to attend a trade mission to Singapore and Malaysia in 2014 through Playbox, one of her companies, even though an initial application through Innotech had been declined.

The letter said the Monitoring Officer was also aware "from media reports and elsewhere" that Arcuri also had been allowed to participate in events around two other trade missions - to New York and Israel in 2015 - although she had not qualified for the New York mission and had been rejected for the mission to Israel.

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