Tory ac­cused in ‘dark money’ probe con­sults lawyers

The Herald - - NEWS - TOM GOR­DON

THE for­mer se­nior Scot­tish Tory at the heart of a row over so-called “dark money” has taken ad­vice fol­low­ing a BBC doc­u­men­tary about his po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and busi­ness record.

Richard Cook, who was a vice chair­man of the Scot­tish Tories and a par­lia­men­tary can­di­date in Glas­gow and East Ren­frew­shire, has en­gaged me­dia lawyer Peter Wat­son.

Mr Wat­son said the BBC show was defam­a­tory and “coun­sel have been in­structed”.

The BBC said it stood by its jour­nal­ism. It is un­der­stood mat­ters are at a pre­lim­i­nary stage, and no defama­tion ac­tion has yet been launched.

Mr Cook was be­hind a highly con­tro­ver­sial £435,000 do­na­tion dur­ing the EU referendum.

The money was given by the mys­te­ri­ous Con­sti­tu­tional Re­search Coun­cil, which Mr Cook chaired, to the DUP in North­ern Ire­land, where do­na­tions are tra­di­tion­ally kept se­cret.

The money was then used by the DUP to buy pro-brexit news­pa­per ad­ver­tis­ing out­side North­ern Ire­land on the eve of the EU referendum, mostly in Lon­don.

Op­po­si­tion politi­cians claimed it was ex­ploit­ing a loop­hole in elec­toral law. Last month BBC North­ern Ire­land’s Spot­light pro­gramme broad­cast an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the episode called “Brexit, Dark Money and the DUP”.

The show dwelled at length on Mr Cook’s busi­ness record in waste man­age­ment, in­clud­ing a num­ber of deals over­seas.

SNP West­min­ster Ian Black­ford raised the is­sue at Prime Min­is­ter’s Ques­tions on July 4.

Un­der par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege, he said: “The BBC has re­vealed that the for­mer vice chair­man of the Con­ser­va­tives in Scot­land was be­hind the DUP’S £435,000 do­na­tion dur­ing the EU referendum, and has ‘a trail of in­volve­ment in il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties and for­eign money’.”

Mr Cook re­mains the chair­man of the Con­sti­tu­tional Re­search Coun­cil and de­scribes him­self as “an in­ter­na­tional ad­viser in waste man­age­ment and en­ergy”.

His le­gal ad­viser, Peter Wat­son of Glas­gow’s PWB Law, said: “The BBC doc­u­men­tary is defam­a­tory.

“Coun­sel have been in­structed and all who choose to re­peat the al­le­ga­tions will also be sub­ject to pro­ceed­ings.”

A BBC spokesman said: “We stand by our jour­nal­ism. We are not aware of re­ceiv­ing any cor­re­spon­dence from Mr Cook’s lawyers.”

„ Richard Cook may sue the BBC over pro­gramme’s al­le­ga­tions.

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