The mystery over who funded Boris Johnson’s New Year Caribbean holiday deepened last night as the luxury villa’s owner told the Daily Mail it was not a freebie.
Sarah Richardson, who owns the magnificent home where the Prime Minister stayed on Mustique, confirmed that she and her husband Craig had rented it out – and that they had ‘got paid’.
However, she said she had ‘no idea’ who had actually covered the cost of the rental as it had been handled by The Mustique Company, the island’s management company.
David Ross – the British businessman whom Mr Johnson declared had provided the £15,000 ‘benefit in kind’ – left, denied he had been the one to pay. Sarah Richardson, right, who owns the magnificent home where the Prime Minister stayed on Mustique, confirmed that she and her husband Craig had rented it out – and that they had ‘got paid’
The revelation comes after David Ross – the British businessman whom Mr Johnson declared had provided the £15,000 ‘benefit in kind’ – denied he had been the one to pay.
The Prime Minister triggered the mystery by naming Mr Ross as the ‘donor’ of the holiday in the Commons register of interests on Wednesday.
But although the former Carphone Warehouse tycoon accepted that he arranged the trip, his spokesman insisted that he did not ‘pay any monies whatsoever’.
It means that identity of the person who covered the cost of the trip remains a mystery,
Nestled on a Mustique hillside, Indigo commands sweeping views over wild seagrass to the island’s pristine beaches, making it the perfect hideaway. It comes with its own full-time housekeeper, chef and gardener
Mr Johnson is facing the prospect of a Commons sleaze inquiry over his declaration about the trip, with Labour yesterday formally writing to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone, demanding an investigation into who paid.
Two former standards chiefs have also joined the calls for an inquiry, warning that they believed Mr Johnson had not followed the rules properly.
Yesterday, the Mail tracked down the wealthy American owners of the stunning villa on the island of Mustique where Mr Johnson stayed with his girlfriend Carrie Symonds over the New Year period.
Mr Johnson and Miss Symonds arrived at the property on Boxing Day last year and stayed for ten days at the hideaway, which boasts four-poster beds, open air terraces and an infinity pool. Miss Symonds is pictured above
The Richardsons, who live in Rhode Island in the US, sometimes stay in their Caribbean hillside home, named Indigo, and at other times it is rented out via The Mustique Company, the island’s management company.
Mr Johnson and Miss Symonds arrived at the property on Boxing Day last year and stayed for ten days at the hideaway, which boasts four-poster beds, open air terraces and an infinity pool.
Last night, Mrs Richardson told the Mail said she had never heard of Mr Ross, but she said that they had definitely been paid for the rental.
Mr Johnson (pictured above on an earlier holiday) is facing the prospect of a Commons sleaze inquiry over his declaration about the trip, with Labour yesterday formally writing to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone, demanding an investigation into who paid
Mrs Richardson said: ‘We got paid for the stay – we get paid for anybody who rents our house. But we have no idea who paid for the house, whether he [Mr Johnson] did, or whoever this Mr Ross is – I don’t know who he is – paid.
‘All I know is that we got a statement saying we received a certain amount of income as a result of our house being rented. We don’t get involved in who rents our house. That is the Mustique Company that handles that.’
Asked if the £15,000 ($19,000) sum declared by Mr Johnson tallied with the amount she had received, she said: ‘I’m not going to answer that. That’s private information for sure. I can’t answer that.’
On Wednesday, Mr Ross’s spokesman told the Mail he did not own the villa and had not paid for its use.
But under apparent pressure from Downing Street, Mr Ross yesterday released a further statement stating that he had ‘facilitated’ the accommodation for Mr Johnson and his girlfriend.
The Tory donor claimed that because he had arranged the trip for the Prime Minister, Mr Johnson’s declaration to the House of Commons had been ‘correct’.
Mrs Richardson, 71, comes from a family of Wall Street investment bankers and great American philanthropists.
Labour yesterday wrote to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards demanding an investigation into who paid for the trip
She is a director of the Prospect Hill Foundation, a philanthropic organisation based on Rhode Island. It is linked to Prospect Hill Capital Advisors, a New York wealth management firm for ultra high net worth individuals.
She is also listed as a vice president of Tangent Films Ltd, a movie picture production company founded by her husband, Craig Richardson, 72.
Nestled on a Mustique hillside, Indigo commands sweeping views over wild seagrass to the island’s pristine beaches, making it the perfect hideaway. It comes with its own full-time housekeeper, chef and gardener.
For their post-Christmas break, Mr Johnson and Miss Symonds flew British Airways to St Lucia and then used a small propeller plane for the hop to Mustique.
According to the villa’s advertised price of $27,000 per week at that time of year, a ten-day stay would normally have cost $38,500 (£29,500).
The villa is priced at varying rates depending on the time of year. But in the two weeks leading up to January 4 it was advertised at the premium rate.
Yesterday the island’s management company refused to comment on the actual price paid, whether there was any discount or any details of the arrangement involving the couple’s stay at Indigo.
Mr Johnson and his girlfriend spent most of their time in seclusion at their bolt-hole, eschewing the chance to join in the wild New Year’s beach party that was attended by Rolling Stones frontman Sir Mick Jagger, Bond star Daniel Craig and model Kate Moss.
But on New Year’s Day, the Prime Minister and Miss Symonds dropped in to the Caribbean’s most famous hostelry, Basil’s Bar.
So did No10 lean on party donor to change his tune?
By John Stevens, Deputy Political Editor for the Daily Mail
Boris Johnson faced the prospect of a sleaze inquiry last night over his New Year’s holiday, despite the businessman he declared as the donor changing his position.
The Prime Minister claimed on Wednesday that his accommodation on the luxury Caribbean island of Mustique, worth £15,000, was provided by Carphone Warehouse founder David Ross.
But he faced immediate questions over the declaration to Commons authorities when the multimillionaire businessman told the Daily Mail he did not own the villa or pay for its use.
Under apparent pressure from Downing Street, Tory donor Mr Ross yesterday released a further statement stating saying he had ‘facilitated’ the accommodation for Mr Johnson and his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, and so the declaration was ‘correct’.
How he corrected ‘mistake’
Mr Ross’s spokesman said: ‘The truth of the matter is Boris Johnson did not stay in David Ross’s house.
‘Boris wanted some help to find somewhere in Mustique, David called the company who run all the villas and somebody had dropped out. So Boris got the use of a villa that was worth £15,000, but David Ross did not pay any monies whatsoever for this.’
Asked about Mr Johnson’s declaration, the spokesman said: ‘I believe it is a mistake.’
He added: ‘It was a house that was rented, but the people could not turn up so Boris Johnson got the use of it that would be worth the equivalent of £15,000.’
‘Following media reports I would like to provide further explanation of the benefit in kind Mr Ross provided to Mr Johnson,’ a spokesman said.
‘Mr Ross facilitated accommodation for Mr Johnson on Mustique valued at £15,000. Therefore this is a benefit in kind from Mr Ross to Mr Johnson, and Mr Johnson’s declaration to the House of Commons is correct.’
But parliamentary rules make clear that MPs are required to name the ‘person or organisation funding the visit’.
Labour yesterday wrote to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards demanding an investigation into who paid for the trip.
Two former standards chiefs also joined calls for an inquiry and warned that they believed Mr Johnson had not properly followed the rules.
Sir Kevin Barron, former chairman of the committee on standards, said: ‘My understanding is that whoever paid for it should have been identified.
Clearly the Prime Minister should now provide clarity.’
Sir Alistair Graham, who chaired the separate committee on standards in public life, said: ‘He should have declared whose villa he stayed at. The Prime Minister should always take a lead in these matters.’
He added that it would be ‘worthwhile’ for the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to look at whether the rules had been met.
In his letter to Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Labour minister Jon Trickett wrote: ‘The Code of Conduct requires members to provide the name of the person or organisation that actually funded a donation. The evidence now suggests it was not David Ross.’
Mr Trickett said the public should know whether the PM ‘knowingly made a false entry into the register’ and requested an investigation into whether he had ‘followed all transparency requirements’.