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Mon, 6 April 2020

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Tom Watson condemns government as probe finds grant to Jennifer Arcuri firm was 'appropriate'

Tom Watson condemns government as probe finds grant to Jennifer Arcuri firm was 'appropriate'
2 min read

A Whitehall probe has ruled that the decision to give £100,000 in public money to a firm run by an associate of Boris Johnson was "appropriate".

The Government Internal Audit Agency launched an inquiry after concerns were raised about the grant to Hacker House earlier this year.

The firm is run by Jennifer Arcuri, who had a friendship with Mr Johnson when he was mayor of London, and now lives in America.

A string of allegations have been made about the nature of the Prime Minister's relationship with the tech entrepreneur.

Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan said the review had found "no impropriety" in the way that the grant had been awarded.

But her Labour opposite number, Tom Watson, described the inquiry as a "whitewash" as he posted sections of Ms Arcuri's grant application on Twitter.

In one part, she says she wants the money to help turn Hacker House into "the Netflix of security".

"Funding is required up front so that I can make payments every month to the team," Ms Arcuri says on the form, before adding: "Cash has been the only reason we haven't been able to develop this product up until this point."

In another section of the application form, Ms Arcuri says the £100,000 grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport would mean the firm "absolutely will be" profitable within a year.

Mr Watson said: "The Hacker House saga continues – DCMS’ ‘review’ of the grant award is a whitewash. No one reading Hacker House’s grant application would give the company a penny, let alone £100,000 of tax payers’ money.

"The fundamental question of why a company run by an associate of Boris Johnson was ever given this grant remains unanswered. The public deserve to know why their money was spent so irresponsibly. We will not let this lie."

Ms Arcuri's company was reportedly given £126,000 in public money and access to three foreign trade missions led by Mr Johnson during his time in City Hall.

In an interview on Good Morning Britain last month, she said Mr Johnson had "absolutely nothing to do" with the £100,000 DCMS grant given to Hacker House.

She added: "Boris never ever gave me favouritism, never once did I ask him for a favour, never once did he write a letter of recommendation for me...

"At the end of the day, I was allowed to go on that trade mission as a delegate because of who I was."

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