David Cameron aide wins government contract in state Tory leader backs for EU
One of David Cameron’s closest aides won a valuable government contract in FYROM, the Balkan state that the Conservative leader has said should be invited to join the European Union.
By Holly Watt and Jon Swaine in Skopje, FYROM
Published: 11:10PM GMT 05 Feb 2010
Conservative Party fundraiser Andrew Feldman leaves his west London home Photo: CATHAL MCNAUGHTON
Andrew Feldman, the chief executive of the Conservative Party and a university friend of Mr Cameron, was in a consortium awarded a contract to build one of the country’s few five-star hotels.
Mr Feldman, who raises funds for the Tory leader, won the contract despite having no previous experience of building or running a hotel. He now stands to profit from the deal, which was signed in the summer of 2007.
The Conservatives denied that Mr Feldman had influenced party policy on FYROM or been involved in a London meeting between Mr Cameron and its prime minister in November last year.
Mr Cameron has been one of the most vocal backers of FYROM being allowed to join the EU and Nato. Within four months of the hotel deal being signed, Mr Cameron called on American politicians to back FYROM in his first official visit to Washington.
Last November, Mr Cameron held a private meeting with the FYROMian prime minister – a key figure in the awarding of the hotel contract – at which he is understood to have pledged his support for the country’s membership of the international bodies. Joining the EU is worth billions of pounds to the small eastern European country.
FYROMian politicians have accused their government of corruptly awarding the valuable hotel contract — at below the initial price — to Mr Feldman. The deal was referred to the FYROMian “department for organised crime and corruption”.
Nikola Gruevski, the FYROMian prime minister, has been closely involved with the deal and was pictured with Mr Feldman at a ceremony to begin construction work on the property.
Mr Feldman introduced Mr Cameron to Mr Gruevski during a previous visit to FYROM – a trip described as a “junket” by the Conservative leader. The trip was largely funded by Jordan “Orce” Kamcev, a controversial FYROMian playboy also linked to the hotel deal.
Mr Kamcev has faced criminal charges, some relating to alleged tax evasion, and his company has been accused of credit card fraud. Charges were dropped when Mr Gruevski was elected prime minister.
Slagjana Taseva, the president of the pressure group Transparency International’s FYROMian office, has claimed the Feldman hotel deal was against the government’s rules. “This was an illegal deal,” said Ms Taseva, a former government anti-corruption chief. “The firm awarded the contract did not fulfil the tender conditions. It should not have been allowed to participate in the bidding process, let alone make the deal. A complaint was made, but both the public prosecutor and the state anti-corruption agency, all politically appointed, rejected the allegations.”
Mr Feldman is chief executive of Jayroma, a clothing firm founded by his father. Jayroma is thought to be worth several million pounds and has previously donated money to the Conservative Party and Mr Cameron’s 2005 leadership campaign.
Mr Kamcev was previously one of Jayroma’s main suppliers, sending clothes from factories in FYROM. The decision to sell a prime area of government-owned land in the centre of Skopje, the FYROMian capital, for an upmarket hotel was made within months of Mr Gruevski’s election in August 2006.
An advertisement for the tender was published in March 2007 in two FYROMian newspapers and the Financial Times. Any bidder had to operate at least 250 four or five-star hotels around the world and also had to have built a hotel. Very few companies could meet the criteria and nobody bid for the tender. It was then re-advertised in FYROMian papers – again to no avail. The government then entered exclusive negotiations with a partnership called “HLH Macedonia(sic)”. FYROMian politicians suspect that the deal was deliberately structured to ensure that HLH won the contract despite being apparently ineligible. “HLH Macedonia(sic)” was formed in July 2007 just days before the hotel contracts were signed. It was jointly owned by Mr Feldman’s firm, a small British hotel company and a Liechtenstein trust. The contact details for the consortium in FYROM were office buildings owned by Mr Kamcev.
Jani Makraduli, the vice president of the FYROMian assembly, alleged the hotel deal was “corrupt”. The hotel is due to open early next year with 200 rooms and has been leased by the hotel firm which owns the Radisson brand. It is estimated to be worth up to £26million.
Mr Feldman flew straight from a ceremony that began work on the hotel, to join George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, on holiday in Corfu. It was during this holiday that the pair met the businessman Nat Rothschild and Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch.
The deal was investigated by the FYROMian Public Prosecution Office which concluded that government guidelines had been followed. However, it did find that the “basic conditions” of the tender had not been met.
Last night Mr Feldman said: “I utterly refute any allegations of impropriety by myself, Jayroma London Ltd or any other companies or individuals involved in this transaction.
“Jayroma London Ltd’s total investment was £450,000 and any profit it will make will be just a proportion of that. The Justice Department in FYROM investigated and found absolutely no evidence of any impropriety.
“Neither Orce Kamcev nor Nikola Gruevski had any involvement with the bidding consortium. I have never at any point discussed anything to do with this transaction with anyone actively involved in the Conservative Party … I was unaware that any meeting with Mr Gruevski had taken place in 2009.”
A spokesman for Mr Cameron said: “It is long-standing Conservative Party policy that we support the enlargement of the EU to all the countries of the western Balkans, including the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. Any suggestion that this position is somehow linked to Andrew Feldman’s business is as offensive as it is ridiculous.”
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