UK prime minister Liz Truss’s chief of staff says he is co-operating with US authorities, as part of their investigation into a Conservative party donor charged over allegations he illegally provided campaign donations to a former governor of Puerto Rico.
In August, the US Department of Justice charged Julio Herrera Velutini, a Venezuelan banker, with conspiracy, federal programmes bribery and honest services wire fraud, alleging that he provided illegal campaign donations to the then-governor of Puerto Rico, Wanda Vázquez Garced, ahead of the US territory’s 2020 gubernatorial election.
Earlier this month, Herrera Velutini pleaded not guilty to the charges. Vázquez Garced was arrested by the FBI last month and accused of accepting bribes while in office.
Mark Fullbrook, the Downing Street chief of staff who formerly worked as a chief global projects officer for C|T Group, a political lobbying company, said in a statement that he was “fully, completely and voluntarily engaged with the US authorities” as a “witness” in the case.
The indictment by the US Department of Justice claims that Herrera Velutini and an adviser allegedly paid more than $300,000 to political consultants in support of Vázquez Garced’s campaign, and in return the former governor requested the resignation of the then commissioner for the region’s financial regulator.
The DoJ’s indictment alleges Herrera Velutini wanted Vázquez Garced to help quash a probe into his Puerto Rico-based lender Bancredito.
“The criminal actions of the defendants in this case strike a blow to the heart of our democracy and further erode the confidence of our citizens in their institutions of governance,” US attorney W Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico said in the indictment.
According to the Sunday Times newspaper, which first revealed Fullbrook’s co-operation with the FBI, Herrera Velutini used the C|T Group to facilitate payments during which time Fullbrook worked for the company as its chief global projects officer.
A spokesperson for Fullbrook said that the chief of staff was “committed to and complies with all laws and regulations in any jurisdiction”.
“Indeed, Mark Fullbrook is a witness in this matter and has fully, completely and voluntarily engaged with the US authorities in this matter, as he would always do in any circumstance in which his assistance is sought by authorities,” they added.
“The work was engaged only by Mr Herrera and only to conduct opinion research for him and no one else. Mr Fullbrook never did any work for, nor presented any research findings to, the governor or her campaign. There has been no engagement since.”
Prior to joining No 10, Fullbrook led Truss’s successful leadership campaign and has worked on other Conservative political campaigns such as former prime minister Boris Johnson’s 2019 push for Number 10 and Zac Goldsmith’s failed attempt to win the 2016 London mayoral election.
In recent years, Herrera Velutini donated more than half a million pounds to the Tories via Britannia Financial, his London-based financial services group. The group has not been accused of wrongdoing.
The FBI would not comment, and C|T Group declined to comment.
Additional reporting by Aime Williams in Washington