Crypto lobbyist donated £500,000 to Tories ahead of UK ‘crypto hub’ move

The Conservative Party received a £500,000 donation from a British crypto investor two months before the government pledged to make the UK “the best place in the world” to set up crypto businesses.

Thailand-based businessman Christopher Harborne made the payment on February 9.

Two months later, the government announced its intention to turn the UK into a “global hub” for the crypto industry.

This new enthusiasm for crypto has surprised some in the industry, given warnings from the Financial Conduct Authority and the Bank of England about the dangers of cryptocurrencies.

Andrew Bailey, governor of the independent Bank of England, has called cryptocurrencies “the new front line” for criminal scams and warned that they have “no intrinsic value”. Since the government’s announcement in April, cryptocurrencies have crashed, with the price of bitcoin falling by more than half.

The BoE declined to comment on the matter.

The Conservative Party said there was no connection between Harborne’s donation and government support for crypto. “Government policy is in no way influenced by party donations – they are entirely separate,” a party spokesman said.

Harborne did not respond to requests for comment.

MP Tulip Siddiq, Labour’s shadow economic secretary, called the donation a “shocking revelation”.

“Instead of protecting the public by properly regulating the crypto market, it seems the Conservatives have been looking after the interests of their wealthy donors.

“This government’s wild west approach to crypto has threatened the security of people’s economies, and crypto-related crimes such as fraud and money laundering have reached record levels.”

The UK Treasury, which is responsible for planning around the crypto hub, has been contacted for comment.

In recent years, Harborne has become active in the crypto world. In 2020, he was named in EU filings as an accredited lobbyist for the Digital Currencies Governance Group, set up to “raise awareness of the role of digital currencies among European political representatives,” according to analysis by LobbyFacts. EU documents. Members of the group include Bitfinex, a cryptocurrency exchange whose parent company Harborne has been a shareholder, according to crypto news website Protos.

Harborne has made no public statement about his crypto investments.

Bitfinex and DCGG have been contacted for comment.

In 2020, French business school Insead said Harborne gave the institution money to fund research into blockchain, the technology that underpins most cryptocurrencies.

Bangkok-based Harborne is known as a generous backer of Reform UK, the former Brexit party, to which he has given more than £10million since 2019, according to documents filed with the UK’s Electoral Commission. United. He also gave a total of £489,000 to the Conservatives between 2001 and 2019.

The Conservative Party declined to tell the FN whether the £500,000 payment in February was a one-off payment or the first in a series of planned donations.

Harborne’s donation was the second highest received by the Tories in the first quarter, after a £973,000 payment from JCB’s Mark Bamford, according to his regular filing with the Electoral Commission.

Harborne, a Cambridge graduate and former McKinsey consultant, is the owner of aviation fuel company, AML Global. Over the past month, he has built up a 7% stake through AML, valued at £140million, in the MoD research spin-off Qinetiq, a filing on May 30.

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority has been tougher on crypto firms than regulators in some other leading countries, banning the trading of crypto derivatives by retail investors and blocking the launch of exchange-traded crypto products.

Firms have complained about the difficulty of registering with the FCA to conduct crypto business, with many dropping out and moving overseas. In March, Treasury Minister John Glen said he had told FCA Chief Executive Nikhil Rathi that the regulator needed to be “more responsive” to crypto firms.

However, it’s not just crypto firms that have complained about regulators’ stance. Many of the city’s mainstream businesses have also privately criticized the FCA’s approach, which some say forced them to work on blockchain technology outside the UK.

To contact the author of this story with comments or news, email David Wighton

About Emilie Brandow

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