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Latest 16 March 2024

Frank Hester’s firm sponsors organisation chaired by Tory Peer who leapt to his defence

PA Images / Alamy

Tory Peer, Lord Marland, who claimed Frank Hester ‘is not a racist’ because he does business abroad, heads a trade organisation which lists The Phoenix Partnership as a ‘strategic partner’ and a ‘platinum’ sponsor for its summits.


Lord Marland was one of the first to jump to Frank Hester’s defence in the immediate fallout of the Guardian’s shocking revelations about his racist comments. On Wednesday, the Tory peer claimed in an LBC interview that his Party’s largest ever donor, “is not a racist” because “he does a lot of business in Jamaica, he does business in Malaysia, in Bangladesh and places like that”.

It’s an unconvincing line of argument to say the least. You might wonder why he’s even running it. And it now turns out that a trade organisation that Lord Marland chairs with another Tory grandee, Lord Swire, opened doors for Hester’s healthtech company, The Phoenix Partnership (TPP), to expand internationally.

The non-profit Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC), lists TPP as a strategic partner and platinum sponsor of its annual trade summits.

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And along with sponsorship funding, Frank Hester has given it glowing testimony: “We have grown our business across Asia, Africa and the Americas, through CWEIC’s flagship events and with the full support of their exceptionally capable team.”

According to a CWEIC brochure, the benefits of becoming a strategic partner include “the opportunity to influence Government policy and decisions as a collective voice by engaging directly with senior government leaders and policy makers”.  

The CWEIC has also taken on as a strategic partner Life Partners, a firm run by Zoe Ley, who made obscene profits from brokering a huge PPE deal through the Government’s unlawful VIP Lane.

“In Toryland, nothing ever happens without a reason”, said Jo Maugham, Executive Director of Good Law Project. “Everyone is buttering everyone else’s bread. And, with the proceeds of his vastly lucrative DHSC contracts, Frank Hester is operating a very large dairy”.

But not everyone who has been involved with the CWEIC has been as keen as Lord Marland to defend Hester. Another big Tory donor, Mohamed Amersi, was on the board of the organisation up until the new year. On Thursday, Amersi took to LBC to brand the way the Conservative Party has handled the Hester scandal as “an absolute disgrace” and warn Rishi Sunak that he is “holding the cheque book back” ahead of the next election.

We approached The Phoenix Partnership, Lord Marland and the Commonwealth Enterprise and  Investment Group for comment.

Lord Marland said: “The Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC) is a not for profit organisation with an official mandate from Commonwealth Heads of Government to promote trade and investment throughout the 56 member countries. CWEIC is a networking organisation and has no interest in and does not promote transactions.

“Many governments and businesses have sponsored CWEIC events for which we are very grateful”.

Back in September 2023, we were the first to raise the alarm about the money flowing back and forth between Frank Hester and the Government – exposing the £137m worth of hidden contracts his company received through the Department of Health and Social Care. And since then, we have shone a light on the close relationship he has with the Prime Minister – from helicopter rides to cosy conversations about AI.

And with reports emerging that the Conservative Party is sitting on another £5m donation from Hester, we’re continuing our investigations into the level of his influence over the most senior Government figures.