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Boris Johnson Is Facing Allegations That He Groped Women and Misused Public Funds. Here’s What to Know

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Boris Johnson has been rocked by fresh allegations relating to his personal life, as he continues to battle intransigent lawmakers over his approach to Brexit.

On the eve of the Conservative Party Conference, Charlotte Edwardes, a journalist for the U.K. Sunday Times newspaper, accused Johnson of groping her at a private lunch in 1999.

This is on top of allegations of an improper relationship with an American entrepreneur, Jennifer Arcuri, during his time as London mayor. Johnson denies any wrongdoing.

But the U.K. Prime Minister has been dogged by claims and reports about his private life throughout his career as a journalist and as politician. Here’s what to know:

What are the groping allegations against Boris Johnson?

Edwardes accused Johnson of groping her leg during an event at the offices of The Spectator, a British magazine the future Prime Minister edited between 1999 and 2005. Johnson has denied the claims. The allegations were made by Edwardes, 45, in a Sunday Times article on Sept. 29.

She wrote: “I’m seated on Johnson’s right; on his left is a young woman I know. More wine is poured; more wine is drunk. Under the table I feel Johnson’s hand on my thigh. He gives it a squeeze. His hand is high up my leg and he has enough inner flesh beneath his fingers to make me sit suddenly upright.”

After confiding in the young woman on Johnson’s left, the guest tells her “Oh god, he did exactly the same to me,” Edwardes claimed.

Responding to the allegations on the first day of the Conservative Party conference, Johnson’s spokesperson said: “This allegation is untrue.” Edwardes responded in a Tweet: “If the prime minister doesn’t recollect the incident then clearly I have a better memory than he does.”

Outside the conference, Carrie Symonds, Boris Johnson’s current partner, declined to answer TIME’s questions about the groping allegations.

At least one of Johnsons’s own cabinet colleagues believes the allegations have some substance. Health Secretary Matt Hancock came to Edwardes’ support, saying she was “trustworthy.” Amber Rudd, the former Work and Pensions Secretary, said she agreed with Hancock.

What are the allegations against Boris Johnson relating to Jennifer Arcuri?

Jennifer Arcuri meets Boris Johnson at World Islamic Economic Forum
Jennifer Arcuri meets Boris Johnson as part of Innotechsummit.com Google Hangout at Excel World Islamic Economic Forum, London, UK - 30 Oct 2013. Boris Johnson was the Mayor of London at the time.Vicki Couchman — Shutterstock

An investigation by The Sunday Times revealed that Arcuri, a U.S. entrepreneur who has described Johnson as her “best friend”, was given a total of £126,000 in public money and attended three official overseas trade missions led by Boris Johnson whilst he was the Mayor of London. Johnson has since been referred to the U.K. police watchdog by the Greater London Authority monitoring officer Emma Strain, who oversees the conduct of the mayor and other members.

On Sept. 29, sources – including a New York Times journalist – told the Sunday Times that Jennifer Arcuri confided in friends that she was engaged in a sexual affair with Boris Johnson during his time as Mayor of London. David Enrich, the financial editor of the New York Times, told the Sunday Times that he was told of an alleged relationship between Johnson and Arcuri by two of Arcuri’s friends when he was working for another newspaper. A friend of Arcuri told The Sunday Times that Johnson was a regular visitor of Arcuri’s flat in East London.

Jennifer Arcuri did not respond to a request to comment by The Sunday Times in relation to her relationship with Johnson, but did issue a short statement on Sept. 27. It read: “Any grants received by my companies and any trade mission I joined were purely in respect to my role as a legitimate businesswoman. I am incredibly disappointed that The Sunday Times cannot write about a successful female entrepreneur without smearing her with innuendo based on leaks from City Hall.”

During his time as Mayor of London, Jennifer Arcuri’s company, Innotech, received two sponsorship grants totaling £11,500 from London & Partners, the organization that Johnson was responsible for at the time.

Arcuri also attended three overseas trade missions led by Johnson to Singapore and Malaysia, New York and Tel Aviv, despite her businesses not meeting the eligibility criteria for the trips. Johnson’s team overruled the decisions made by officials to not include her on the official visits to New York and Tel Aviv.

As Mayor, Johnson was bound by the Greater London Authority’s code of conduct, which stated that he must “declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve and conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.”

How has Johnson responded?

Boris Johnson has refused to answer questions about his relationship with Jennifer Arcuri, but he has denied any impropriety. On Sept. 29, the P.M. said that there was “no interest to declare” regarding their relationship.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “Everything was done in accordance with the code, and everything was done with full propriety. There was no interest to declare. Let’s be absolutely clear, I am very, very proud of everything that we did and certainly everything that I did as mayor of London.”

What happens next?

The U.K. Prime Minister was referred to the UK’s police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, on Sept. 20, to assess whether Johnson should be investigated for criminal charges relating to misconduct in public office. This follows the allegations by The Sunday Times of a potential conflict of interest with regard to his relationship with Jennifer Arcuri during his time as London Mayor.

What other controversies has Johnson faced?

Johnson’s colorful private life has been heavily scrutinized over the years. He wed his first wife, Allegra Mostyn-Owen, in 1987 but they divorced in 1993. During his first marriage, Johnson was having an affair with Marina Wheeler. Wheeler was heavily pregnant by Johnson by the time Johnson’s divorce was finalized with Mostyn-Owen in 1993. The Mail reported “they married 12 days later” and went on to have four children together.

In 2004, Johnson was forced to leave his post as shadow Arts Minister for lying to Conservative Party Leader Michael Howard about a four-year-long marital affair with journalist Petronella Wyatt. He called claims about the affair an “inverted pyramid of piffle,” before Wyatt’s mother confirmed it.

Then, in 2010, reports emerged that Johnson had fathered a child with Helen Macintyre, an arts consultant. The reports only came to light after Macintyre lost a three-year legal battle to stop the media from naming Johnson as the father of the child. Johnson and Marina Wheeler eventually separated in 2018 and he later began a relationship with current partner, Carrie Symonds.

Earlier this year, on June. 21, neighbours called police to the home of Boris Johnson and his partner, Carrie Symonds, after they heard screaming, shouting and banging. A neighbour alleged that they heard Symonds telling Johnson to “get off me” and “get out of my flat”. Johnson told the BBC that it was “simply unfair” to “drag” his loved ones into politics. Symonds has not commented on their argument.

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