Priti Patel collects £140,000 from backers with oil and offshore energy interests
The donations collected by the home secretary in the first half of this year are many times greater than those recorded by any of her Cabinet peers
Home secretary Priti Patel collected £140,000 in donations in the first half of this year – vastly more than any of her Cabinet peers – with all the money coming from donors with significant fossil fuel and offshore energy interests, an Unearthed analysis has found.
The money stems from three large donations made between February and April, and amounts to more than she has previously received in her entire parliamentary career.
The first and largest of these donations came from a company controlled by Pierre Andurand, a renowned French oil trader and hedge fund manager who has made his name betting on movements in oil prices. It was followed by consecutive donations from two executives of a Swiss-headquartered firm called Geoquip Marine, which provides services to the offshore oil and gas and wind farm industries.
Prior to this year, the last time Patel received any cash donations at all was in the weeks leading up to the 2017 general election, when she collected a total of £16,000 from four separate donors.
The six-figure sum she has registered in 2022 is also significantly higher than the amount collected by any other politician serving in the Cabinet over the same period. The next-highest recipient, former Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis, registered just £21,200 in that time from three separate donors.
Over the past year – going back to the start of July 2021 – the only Cabinet member who collected anywhere close to Patel’s total is Michael Gove, who recorded £120,500 for the period, from seven different donors. Gove was the communities secretary in Boris Johnson’s government until 6 July, when he was sacked by Johnson the night before the prime minister himself resigned.
The news comes after Patel ruled herself out of the race to replace Johnson as Conservative leader just hours before the nominations closed on Tuesday evening (12 July). Patel – whose pro-Brexit credentials and authoritarian positions on justice and immigration make her popular with some on the right of the Tory party – had been expected to launch a campaign but she instead released a statement saying her “focus” would remain on her day job.
While the donations to the home secretary this year are vastly more than she has collected previously, they are directly comparable with the sums collected prior to the resignation of then-prime minister Theresa May in June 2019 by contenders in the last Conservative Party leadership election. In the first six months of 2019, Johnson collected £168,000, Dominic Raab took in £132,307 and Jeremy Hunt £95,000.
The first of the 2022 donations to Patel was £100,000 in February from a UK-registered company controlled by Pierre Andurand called Andurand Ventures. Andurand – who was dubbed “Oil’s comeback kid” by the Financial Times – made his fortune trading financial derivatives linked to the price of oil.
This was followed in March and April by two further donations – of £20,000 apiece – from Arvid Trolle and Stewart Higginson.
Higginson is chief executive of Geoquip Marine, a firm that conducts seabed surveys for companies planning to install offshore structures like oil rigs and wind farms. According to the company’s website, its recent projects include site investigations for an offshore gas field and a wind farm in Japanese waters, and a Nigerian offshore oilfield for the French oil company Total. The company was also recently contracted to survey the site of a proposed oilwell off the coast of Cameroon.
Its past clients include the oil multinationals ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Saudi Aramco, as well as various offshore wind developers.
The website adds that Geoquip “operates drilling equipment in connection with offshore oil and gas structures, offshore renewable energy installations…and our expertise and equipment has many applications in the military, mining and petroleum industries.”
Trolle has been on the board of directors of Geoquip Marine since 2018. He is also a founding partner of Njord Partners, a “special situations” investment manager that specialises in investing in troubled companies. Njord Partners is a major investor in Geoquip Marine.
All three donors were approached for comment, but they all declined to comment on why they had suddenly chosen to make large donations to Patel or how they expected the money to be used. A spokesperson for Pierre Andurand said: “Pierre has been vocal regarding the world’s need to move away from fossil fuels and cut emissions to net zero. He has long argued that the price to put carbon in the atmosphere should be really punitive and he supports any policies that are aligned with this approach. Andurand Capital Management does not produce or move fossil fuels and does not invest in fossil fuel companies.”
Neither Stewart Higginson nor Arvid Trolle responded to our enquiries.
Patel’s office also declined to comment.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas called on the home secretary to “come clean and offer a full explanation” of her links to these donors.
“It’s shameful enough that fossil fuel interests are swarming around the Tory backbenches,” she said. “But to have them sat right at the Cabinet table, making decisions which determine our country’s ability to tackle the ever-looming climate emergency, is utterly unforgivable.”
She added: “The Home Office’s inhumanity, inaction and incompetence under her leadership already knows no bounds – now this fossil fuel funding brings ignominy upon her office too.”