A Conservative donor who made millions of dollars in Russia has dropped a data protection claim against a former Tory MP who raised concerns about him, days before a High Court trial that was expected to shine a light on the party’s fundraising machine.

But Mohamed Amersi, a dealmaker and philanthropist who has been accused in parliament of using the legal system to “bully” the ex-backbencher Charlotte Leslie, told the Financial Times he would “seek vindication” by pressing ahead with a defamation claim against her.

The £750,000 that Amersi and his partner have given to the Conservatives bought him membership of the exclusive Leaders Group of donors with its monthly lunches with British government ministers.

The dispute has drawn attention to the role of Ben Elliot, the high-society fixer appointed party co-chair by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2019 to turbo-charge fundraising. Elliot intervened in the fight without revealing to Leslie that Amersi was a paying client of Quintessentially, his “concierge” service for the super-rich. Labour has called on Johnson to sack Elliot over his alleged conflict of interest.

The FT revealed in 2021 that Amersi made $4m of his fortune from a 2005 deal through which a controlling stake in a major St Petersburg telecoms venture passed to a company belonging to a group later found by a Swiss arbitration tribunal to be controlled by Leonid Reiman.

Reiman was a minister in Vladimir Putin’s government at the time, but Amersi says he was unaware that he owned the company.

There have been further revelations about Amersi’s dealings in the former Soviet Union, including from the Pandora papers leak about his role in a 2010 telecoms deal that US prosecutors went on to expose as being part of a scheme by the Swedish group TeliaSonera to bribe the daughter of Uzbekistan’s ruler. Amersi has said he did not knowingly facilitate any corrupt payments by TeliaSonera.

In 2020, Leslie wrote memos on Amersi’s background after learning that he was planning to set up a rival organisation to the Conservative Middle East Council. Leslie has run CMEC, which takes delegations of Tory MPs to meet the region’s leaders, since losing her seat in 2017.

Leslie’s memos reached senior party figures, including Elliot. Amersi obtained copies of them and began legal action using top London “reputation management” law firms Mishcon de Reya and Carter-Ruck. The lawyers wrote to Leslie demanding that she apologise, retract her memos and undertake not to obstruct Amersi’s plans for a new Conservative-Middle East group. By the middle of 2021, Amersi told the FT, he had spent £300,000 on legal fees.

In June 2021, the day after the FT approached him for comment regarding his dispute with Leslie and his business activities in Russia, Amersi commenced a data protection claim against her and CMEC. He claimed that she had obtained “large quantities” of his personal data from her “contacts” and from open sources.

She wrote the memos because she “falsely” believed she should warn those associating with him that doing so would be damaging for the Conservatives and the country, Amersi’s claim said. He demanded that she reveal the identities of her sources and of all those who received her memos.

Leslie maintains she has acted in the public interest. She says she met her obligations under data protection law and has accused Amersi of using a “legal sledgehammer” against her. In a January parliamentary debate on the use of so-called lawfare by the rich to stifle scrutiny, the former Conservative minister David Davis claimed “Amersi has used his wealth and influence to try to bully Charlotte Leslie into silence”.

Amersi responded: “I am not a bully. I am defending my reputation, which she has sullied.”

A four-day High Court trial of Amersi’s data protection claim was due to begin on April 5. But he told the FT: “I have achieved all that could realistically be achieved from that process and I am now in a position to seek vindication over the false and defamatory statements made about me. My hope, of course, is that this can be done without the need to pursue the libel proceedings in court but we shall see.”

Amersi has said previously that “not a penny” of the money he made in Russia has funded his UK political donations.



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