Labour has written to the Tory co-chair Oliver Dowden raising concerns about donations to 34 Tory MPs by the companies backed by a Russian-born oil tycoon linked to an alleged corruption scandal.
Anneliese Dodds, the Labour party chair, sent a letter to Dowden questioning why almost one in 10 Conservative MPs had taken money from firms linked to Viktor Fedotov including Aquind.
Aquind is currently seeking permission from the government to build a £1.2bn electricity interconnector between France and the UK, which the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, is due to rule on within weeks.
Fedotov’s company has made huge donations to the Conservative party and its politicians. He was revealed in the Pandora papers to have secretly co-owned a company once accused of participating in a massive corruption scheme.
Lawyers for Fedotov and Aquind strongly denied all accusations of fraud and said accusations of corruption aimed at his Russian firm were “completely false”. They said Fedotov did not personally donate to the Tories.
In her letter to Dowden, Dodds said: “I’m sure you will have been as shocked as I was by the Pandora papers leaks over recent days, and the extent of the offshore links and alleged corruption that they revealed.
“Particularly concerning was the revelation that 34 Conservative MPs – almost one in 10 of your parliamentary party – received £700,000 from Aquind and another firm backed by Viktor Fedotov, an oligarch linked to an alleged corruption scandal at the heart of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”
In a series of questions, she asked: “What did the 34 Conservative MPs do with the money they received from Mr Fedotov’s companies? Can you be certain there is no link to the pursuit of Aquind’s business interests?”
Dodds also called on Dowden to publish the list of all those who sit on donor groups paying £50,000 or £250,000 a year for different levels of access to the prime minister and his cabinet.
She added: “This trend of secretive cash for access is deeply worrying, both for the sake of our democracy and for our national security. Why can’t you level with the public and tell us just what it is that people get for handing over huge sums of money to your party?”
Aquind’s £1.2bn project has already been mired in controversy, amid local opposition and complaints over the company’s donations to and links with the Conservative party. Alexander Temerko, who is a friend of the prime minister, Boris Johnson, and a co-owner of Aquind, has together with the company donated £1.1m to the Tories.
There is no suggestion Temerko had any knowledge of the possible origins of Fedotov’s wealth. Three Conservative ministers have already had to recuse themselves from the decision-making process over the Aquind undersea cable because of their links to the company.
The Fedotov-backed companies who donated to the 34 Tory MPs include both Aquind and a related firm, Offshore Group Newcastle (OGN).
Lawyers for Aquind said Fedotov did not personally donate to the Tories. They also said the Russian tycoon had “no influence” over donations made by Aquind, which he does not manage, and “has never had any interest in British politics”.
Aquind’s development between Portsmouth and Normandy is considered a “nationally significant infrastructure project” by government UK officials. It is opposed by Penny Mordaunt, a government minister and Portsmouth North MP, who has told the Portsmouth News that the project is “a disaster for our city, for our national resilience and our national security”.
Kwarteng, who will take the decision based on official advice, declined to comment on the Pandora papers disclosures about Fedotov’s business activities in Russia and the apparent source of wealth.
A company Fedotov secretly co-owned, Vniist, was accused of siphoning funds from the Russian state pipeline monopoly, Transneft, in the early 2000s. Leaked documents in the Pandora papers suggest he made at least $98m (£72m) from an offshore financial structure that appears to have funnelled profits from Vniist via multiple tax havens.
Aquind’s lawyers said the allegations came from a wholly unreliable report, and described the accusations as completely false.
But one senior Conservative told the Guardian there were serious national security concerns about allowing the Aquind project to proceed.
Stephen Morgan, a Labour MP opposing the interconnector proposal, said he had raised concerns over alleged “Aquind cronyism” and said ministers should “stop their dither and delay and must immediately stop” the project.
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the decision over the Aquind’s cable would be made “solely” by Kwarteng. They added: “No decision has yet been taken.”
A Conservative party spokesperson said: “Government policy is in no way influenced by the donations the party receives – they are entirely separate. We are motivated by the priorities of the British public, acting in the national interest.”
She added: “The Conservative party is funded by membership, fundraising and donations. Donations to the Conservative party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, openly published by them, and comply fully with the law.
“Fundraising is a legitimate part of the democratic process. The alternative is more taxpayer-funding of political campaigning, which would mean less money for frontline services like schools, police and hospitals.”