US businesswoman denies favouritism by UK's Johnson

AFP , Monday 7 Oct 2019

A US businesswoman refused to say Monday whether she had an affair with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson while he was mayor of London, following claims he gave her privileged access to foreign trade jaunts.

Jennifer Arcuri told ITV television Johnson "never, ever" showed her favouritism during his time as mayor between 2008 and 2016.

The technology entrepreneur was reportedly given £126,000 ($155,000, 141,000 euros) in public money and a spot on three foreign trade missions led by Johnson during his time at City Hall.

Last month, Johnson was referred to the police complaints body to assess whether he should face a criminal investigation over his association with Arcuri.

Johnson is already under pressure over Britain's negotiations to leave the European Union and a recent Supreme Court ruling that he misled Queen Elizabeth II in advice to her to suspend parliament.

During the hour-long live television interview, Arcuri repeatedly declined to say whether she and Johnson were having a relationship at the time.

"It's really categorically no-one's business what private life we had or didn't have. But -- and categorically more important -- Boris never, ever gave me favouritism," she said.

"I care about him deeply as a friend, and we do share a very close bond."

She said they tried meeting in public but it became "too much of a mob show", so instead they met at her office-cum-flat in east London "five, 10, a handful of times".

- 'Pole dancer' -

Arcuri, who complained recent media coverage had turned her into an "objectified ex-model pole dancer", said Johnson "asked me to show him a few things" on the pole in her flat.

Asked if Johnson had ever used the pole, Arcuri replied: "I'm never going to tell you that."

She said she used £10,000 given to her firm to produce an event she hosted in 2013, while Johnson had "absolutely nothing to do" with a £100,000 grant given to her cyber security company this year.

Despite her business ventures, Arcuri said she was yet to turn a profit.

She said she had not heard from Johnson since she became pregnant in 2016.

John McDonnell, finance spokesman for the main opposition Labour Party, said Johnson had "misled the public" by saying he had no interest to declare over his friendship with Arcuri.

McDonnell said Johnson was "unfit for office" and demanded "a full investigation into the apparent misuse of public funds".

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