British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has denied he lobbied in support of a Saudi Arabian consortium’s bid for Premier League football club Newcastle United.
The Daily Mail claimed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent WhatsApp messages to Johnson in June 2020 urging him to make the English Premier League "reconsider and correct its wrong conclusion" in obstructing the takeover.
Last observation of the night: the Premier League (as a governing body) appear to come out of the Newcastle takeover episode in the best light. Under pressure from Saudi Govt (and therefore UK Govt), they said: "Not fit and proper". (My reading).— Nick Harris (@sportingintel) April 14, 2021
On Thursday, 15 April, Mr Johnson's official spokesman, Max Blain, refused to comment on "private conversations" but admitted a senior aide, Eddie Lister, was asked by Mr Johnson to check on the progress of the takeover.Mr Blain said: "The prime minister asked Lord Lister to check on the progress of the talks as a potential major foreign investment in the UK. He didn't ask him to intervene. The prime minister didn't intervene. The government was not involved in any point in these takeover talks."
Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has disputed the Premier League's conclusion that the consortium was an arm of the Saudi state.
After journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in October 2018 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul there was pressure to put sanctions on the government in Riyadh.
The Crown Prince has denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s murder, which he insists was carried out by rogue elements.
The reports about Mr Johnson’s alleged involvement in the Newcastle deal comes amid concerns in London about nefarious lobbying.
Former prime minister David Cameron has been accused of lobbying on behalf of finance company Greensill Capital.
Mr Johnson has launched an investigation into Mr Cameron's private lobbying of ministers and three parliamentary committees have now opened their own probes.