An MP has apologised after failing to declare a £150,000 loan from a Russian-born businessman.
David Warburton was found to have twice breached the MPs’ code of conduct by neglecting to register or subsequently declare the payment he received from Roman Joukovski, through the overseas company Castlebrook Associates Limited, in 2017.
The MP for Somerton and Frome came under scrutiny after it was reported that he provided a favourable reference of Mr Joukovski to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in March 2021, prior to the full repayment of the loan, describing him as “extremely capable and an honest and straightforward person”.
It was alleged in a complaint to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone, that the MP’s actions amounted to paid advocacy, as he was “effectively being paid by Mr Joukovski in the form of a loan”.
However, Ms Stone found that, while the payment should have been lodged in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and subsequently declared in Mr Warburton’s reference to the FCA, the MP was not seeking to confer “a financial or material benefit” on the businessman.
It therefore did not constitute paid advocacy, she said, adding that she was also “mindful” the letter was submitted “substantially outside the six-month time limit set by the House’s paid advocacy rules”.
Mr Warburton told Ms Stone that he did not register the loan at the time because it was “entirely unconnected” with his role as an MP or “any parliamentary activities”.
He also stressed it was “neither free nor at any concessionary rates”.
Detailing the circumstances that led up to the reference, the MP said Mr Joukovski had “occasionally updated” him on efforts to “clear up his past dealings with the FCA”.
Mr Warburton said the businessman told him he had been advised to obtain “personal references”, and he was “delighted” to assist in a private capacity.
He said his “only error in this whole episode” was providing the reference on parliamentary paper, which he acknowledged was “inappropriate”.
He did not consider declaring the loan when he wrote to the FCA because it was “completely unrelated in any way” to the reference, he said.
Ms Stone said she was “satisfied on the evidence that the loan had not influenced Mr Warburton’s words or actions as a member”.
She said the MP had agreed to rectify his breach of the rules.
He also wrote to her “accepting my decision, acknowledging and apologising for the breach”.
“As part of the rectification process, Mr Warburton also agreed to have the loan from Castlebrook Associates Limited belatedly added to the Register of Members’ Financial Interests,” she added.
Mr Warburton currently sits as an independent MP.
He had the Conservative whip withdrawn earlier this year following the emergence of allegations of sexual harassment and cocaine use. He is said to have denied any wrongdoing.