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Chinese 'Spy' Payments to Labour MP: Conspiracy or Cock-Up?

© HENRY NICHOLLSThe Houses of Parliament can be seen as a person walks along the South Bank of the River Thames during sunrise, in London
The Houses of Parliament can be seen as a person walks along the South Bank of the River Thames during sunrise, in London - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.01.2022
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The bombshell claim by British spy-catchers that Chinese money was funnelled to MPs came at the best possible moment for PM Boris Johnson, under fire over the scandal of his Downing Street staff holding office parties during the COVID-19 lockdown.
A former government minister has claimed the Chinese government made a "poor investment" by channelling donations to him via a UK-based lawyer.
Labour MP Barry Gardiner told Sky News political correspondent Jon Craig he did not discuss British government policy "in great detail" with Christine Lee, a former legal advisor to the Chinese embassy in London.
The Brent North MP received over £675,000 in donations from Lee, a lawyer based in Birmingham, from 2005 onwards.

Нe insisted Lee "gained no political advantage for the Chinese state from me," and was "very angry that somebody tried to use me in that way."

Counter-espionage service MI5 issued a warning on Thursday, circulate to MPs by Parliamentary speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, that Lee was involved in political "interference" on behalf of the Chinese state and had acted as an intermediary for donations to MPs.
"I think she must have felt it was a very poor investment if she did seek to get something out of it, because I have been critical of the Chinese government on many occasions," Gardiner insisted.
Some of Lee's donations paid for for Lee's son Daniel Wilkes to work for Gardiner from 2015. Gardiner said on Thursday that Lee had stopped paying her son's wages in June 2020, more than three years after the arrangement was exposed by The Times.
Wilkes resigned on Thursday morning after the warning was circulated. Gardiner said in a statement that he had "been liaising with our Security Services for a number of years about Christine Lee". But that evening he told Sky that he only learnt from MI5 on Thursday about Lee "being a spy."
"I then went and I immediately contacted her son who has worked in my office as the diary manager and I asked him to tender his resignation forthwith, which he did," Gardiner told Craig. "But I want to stress to you that the security services said to me they had no information that led them to believe that he was aware of his mother's illegal activity."
Gardiner was a junior minister in the Northern Ireland Office and Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs in Labour PM Tony Blair's last government, and later served as shadow energy and international trade secretary under Labour's last leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Former soldier and National Crime Agency officer Mike Tapp told GB News political correspondent Tom Harwood that it would be difficult to deport Lee — a UK resident married to British businessman Martin Wilkes — as she is not a foreign diplomat.
Lee runs a legal practice with a main office in Birmingham — near the couple's £1 million Solihull home — and another on Wardour Street in London's Chinatown.
But questions remain unanswered over why Gardiner took donations from Lee to employ her son, and why the MP kept him on the payroll until Thursday morning after the arrangement was exposed in 2017 — and he admitted MI5 had raised concerns over Lee's influence.
Their arrangement appears strange given that MPs can claim the costs of employing Parliamentary office staff from the taxpayer as legitimate expenses.
Wilkes' profile on careers social media site LinkedIn was no longer "available" to view on Friday.
The Houses of Parliament can be seen as a person walks along the South Bank of the River Thames during sunrise, in London - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.01.2022
UK Intel Service Says Labour Donor Vectored Chinese Cash to British MPs for Influence

Ulterior Motives

Former Labour and Respect party MP and broadcaster George Galloway asked what "illegal activity" Lee was accused of, in Gardiner's own words, and why no criminal charges had been laid.
And Aaron Bastani, co-founder of left-wing news site Novara Media, commented on the convenient timing of the MI5 warning to MPs for embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He pointed out that the story was not news and had received mainstream coverage 18 months earlier.
While MI5's "interference alert" claimed Lee was acting as a go-between for Chinese businessmen and state organisations, no evidence has yet been presented to back that up.
Lee's Birmingham office declined to comment on the allegations on Friday, while Beijing denied them on Thursday night, saying it had no need to "buy influence" in foreign parliaments.
In fact the lawyer enjoyed official favour for many years for her leadership of the now-dormant British Chinese Project and its involvement with the Chinese in Britain all-party Parliamentary group.
Lee rubbed shoulders with prime ministers and party leaders including Tory David Cameron and Labour's Jeremy Corbyn, was pictured meeting Prince Charles and won a 'Points of Light' award from Johnson's predecessor Theresa May for her work in the Chinese community.
Liberal Democrat Party leader Sir Ed Davey's constituency branch also received a £5,000 donation from Lee in 2013, when he was energy secretary in Cameron's coalition government.
"I can't even remember this woman, to be frank," Davey told Sky on Thursday, claiming he was "shocked" at the revelation.
Another leftist website, Skwakbox, cited un-named Labour insiders who claimed party leader Sir Keir Starmer sacked Gardiner from his front bench after taking over from Corbyn last year because he feared a leadership challenge from the veteran MP. And they said Starmer's allies were "hoping to tarnish Gardiner’s reputation by association."
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