The threat to Boris Johnson from alleged favours granted to his friend Jennifer Arcuri while he was London mayor has deepened, with a referral to a police watchdog for a possible “misconduct” inquiry.

The Greater London Authority (GLA) has asked the Independent Office for Police Conduct to assess whether the prime minister should be formally investigated over his relationship with the US tech entrepreneur and former model.

It wants the probe to explore whether Ms Arcuri was allowed to join trade missions, and received large grants, “when she and her companies could not have expected otherwise to receive those benefits”.

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The bombshell move, to examine whether “a criminal offence” was committed, escalates the danger to Mr Johnson’s position from a controversy he has attempted to shrug off.

The prime minister has insisted “everything was done entirely in the proper way” – while refusing to answer questions about whether he had had a sexual relationship with Ms Arcuri.

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UK news in pictures

Shape Created with Sketch.
UK news in pictures

1/50 27 September 2019

Gallery assistants pose with an artwork entitled ‘Devolved Parliament’ by British artist Banksy, during a press view in London ahead of Sotheby’s contemporary art sale, as part of the Frieze Art Fair

2/50 26 September 2019

England’s Jonathan Joseph is tackled by United State’s Marcel Brache during their group match at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. England scored seven tries on their way to winning 45-7

3/50 25 September 2019

Tributes for former Rangers player Fernando Ricksen at Ibrox Stadium. Today, the funeral procession will pass Ibrox Stadium before making the journey to Wellington Church

4/50 24 September 2019

A person dressed as a caricature of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a prison uniform stands outside the Supreme Court after it ruled that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal

5/50 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook aircraft are parked up at Manchester Airport on the day they collapsed after rescue talks failed. A total of 22,000 jobs – including 9,000 in UK – are to be lost following administration. More than 150,000 British holidaymakers need to be brought home, with the government and CAA hiring dozens of charter planes to fly customers home free of charge

6/50 22 September 2019

Fire performer Penella Bee performs before people take part in the North East Skinny Dip at Druridge Bay in Nothumberland, an annual event that marks the Autumn Equinox and raises money for MIND – the Mental Health Charity

7/50 21 September 2019

Protesters gather for a march and rally organised by “The People’s Vote” in Brighton, to call for politicians to give the public a final say referendum on Brexit

8/50 20 September 2019

Protesters in London joined millions across world to demand urgent action to save planet in the largest environmental protest in history

9/50 19 September 2019

Rapper Dave poses with the Mercury Prize: Albums of the Year Award at Apollo

10/50 18 September 2019

A surfer in action during sunrise at Tynemouth on the north east coast

11/50 17 September 2019

Protesters dressed as the Incredible Hulk and Robocop outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear appeals over three days from two separate challenges to the prorogation of Parliament brought in England and Scotland

12/50 16 September 2019

Farmer Tom Hoggard harvests pumpkins at Howe Bridge Farm in Yorkshire, ahead of Halloween

13/50 15 September 2019

Team Europe celebrate winning the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland. Europe won the last three singles matches to claim victory 14½-13½
Sunset at St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay

15/50 13 September 2019

Activists from PETA stage a demonstration outside a venue during London Fashion Week in London, Britain

16/50 12 September 2019

Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne attempts to stop a boundary in the fifth Test

17/50 11 September 2019

Storm clouds gather over the pier just off the North East coast at South Shields

18/50 10 September 2019

The peloton rides past the Angel of the North during stage four of the Tour of Britain from Gateshead to Kendal

19/50 9 September 2019

A penny farthing cyclist rides past St. John’s, Smith Square, Westminster, London

20/50 8 September 2019

Australia celebrate the wicket of England’s Craig Overton, which meant they won the fourth test and retained the Ashes

21/50 7 September 2019

Manchester City celebrate after Caroline Weir scored during their Women’s Super League match against Manchester United at Etihad Stadium. The WSL attendance record was smashed with 31,213 people watching the first Manchester derby of Women’s Super League era – nearly six times the previous WSL record

22/50 6 September 2019

A bull bumps into a plain clothes police officer (left) while being walked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to Darnford Farm in Banchory near Aberdeen. It coincided with the publication of Lord Bew’s review and an announcement of extra funding for Scottish farmers

23/50 5 September 2019

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cuts the hair of David Torrance MSP raising £1000 for the charity Maggie’s Centre in Kirkcaldy at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

24/50 4 September 2019

Australia’s David Warner looks dejected after being dismissed by England’s Stuart Broad during day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford in Manchester

25/50 3 September 2019

Anti Brexit demonstrators attend a protest at Parliament Square. Lawmakers returned from their summer recess Tuesday for a pivotal day in British politics as they challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s insistence that the UK leave the European Union on 31 October, even without a withdrawal agreement to cushion the economic blow

26/50 2 September 2019

Set building begins on Waterloo Place in Edinburgh ahead of filming for Fast and Furious 9

27/50 1 September 2019

Members of the Royal Southern Yacht Club and the Island Sailing Club take part during the annual cricket match between the clubs, which takes place on the Bramble Bank sandbank in the middle of the Solent at low tide
Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate at Whitehall in London

29/50 30 August 2019

One of the iconic ‘Girl with Balloon’ artworks by anonymous street artist Banksy is carried near one of the original locations the artwork appeared at on the Southbank in London

30/50 29 August 2019

The sun rises over the sculpture “The Couple” by artist Sean Henry, at Newbiggin-by-the-sea in Northumberland

31/50 28 August 2019

A person wearing a Boris Johnson ‘head’ digs a grave at the foot of a tombstone during a protest organised by Avaaz and Best for Britain, outside Downing Street in London

32/50 27 August 2019

Nat Lofthouse statue is covered in flags at the University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton

33/50 26 August 2019

Performers take part in Notting Hill Carnival. Nearly one million people were expected to attend Sunday and Monday’s carnival to celebrate Caribbean culture

34/50 25 August 2019

A competitor swims in the World Bog Snorkelling Championships in Llanwryd Wells, Powys

35/50 24 August 2019

People flock to Bournemouth beach as a heatwave spells potentially record high temperatures for the bank holiday weekend

36/50 23 August 2019

Fans of Bury FC deliver a symbolic coffin to the club’s home at Gigg Lane as the continuation of their membership to the football league lies in doubt. The club will lose their membership at midnight if they don’t find a buyer or prove that they have the means to pay off their debts

37/50 22 August 2019

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow DEFRA Secretary Sue Hayman during a visit to Rakefoot Farm, Castlerigg, Keswick where they are highlighting the danger of a No Deal Brexit to sheep farmers

38/50 21 August 2019

Festival goers walk along the towpath of the River Thames as they arrive for the Reading Festival at Richfield Avenue

39/50 20 August 2019

Police officers gather to pay their respects at the scene near Ufton Lane, where Thames Valley Police officer PC Andrew Harper, 28, died on Thursday. Jed Foster, 20, has appeared at Reading Magristrates’ Court where denied any involvement with the murder

40/50 19 August 2019

A fire that broke out at the site of Village Bakery on Coed Aben Road, Wrexham Industrial Estate in Wales

41/50 18 August 2019

England fielders crowd Pat Cummins as he see’s out the final over during day five of the second Ashes Test match against Australia at Lord’s Cricket Ground. The test ended in a draw

42/50 17 August 2019

Glew (centre) and Monroe Adams (right) pose for a selfie with a member of the public outside DragWorld London 2019, Europe’s largest drag convention, featuring drag stars from the US and UK during a two-day event at Olympia, London

43/50 16 August 2019

A grey seal with fishing net tangled around its neck amongst the colony on the beach at Horsey in Norfolk, as RSPCA data show the number of animals affected by plastic litter is at an all-time high, with incidents increasing by 22% in just four years

44/50 15 August 2019

A flock of sheep are herded past government buildings in London by members of Farmers for a People’s Vote, a campaign group

45/50 14 August 2019

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks during a press conference at the Mayflower Marina in Plymouth, southwest England, on August 14, 2019, ahead of her journey across the Atlantic to New York, aboard the Malizia II IMOCA class sailing yacht, where she will attend the UN Climate Action Summit next month. – A year after her school strike made her a figurehead for climate activists, Greta Thunberg believes her uncompromising message about global warming is getting through — even if action remains thin on the ground. The 16-year-old Swede, who sets sail for New York this week to take her message to the United States, has been a target for abuse but sees that as proof she is having an effect

46/50 12 August 2019

A hare runs on a moor near Ripon, North Yorkshire

47/50 11 August 2019

Britain’s Jamie Chadwick wins first-ever W Series title. She pocketed a prize of £410,000 and, having been signed as a development driver for Williams, she keeps up her hopes of making it into Formula One

48/50 10 August 2019

People gather on the beach as a raft carrying people dressed as clowns heads to shore during the annual Whitby Regatta in Whitby, England. At over 170 years old, the Whitby Regatta is thought to be the oldest sea regatta on the northeast coast of England and draws thousands of visitors each year

49/50 9 August 2019

Burryman Andrew Taylor, gets a nip of whisky using a straw, from resident Mary Hamblin, 82, as he parades through the town of South Queensferry, near Edinburgh, encased in burrs. The parade takes place on the second Friday of August each year and although the exact meaning of this tradition has been lost through the years it is thought to have begun in the 17th Century. The tradition is believed to bring good luck to the towns people if they give him whisky offered through a straw or a donation of money

50/50 8 August 2019

A mosque is seen amongst residential housing from the air during a mass take off at the annual Bristol hot air balloon festival in Bristol

1/50 27 September 2019

Gallery assistants pose with an artwork entitled ‘Devolved Parliament’ by British artist Banksy, during a press view in London ahead of Sotheby’s contemporary art sale, as part of the Frieze Art Fair

2/50 26 September 2019

England’s Jonathan Joseph is tackled by United State’s Marcel Brache during their group match at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. England scored seven tries on their way to winning 45-7

3/50 25 September 2019

Tributes for former Rangers player Fernando Ricksen at Ibrox Stadium. Today, the funeral procession will pass Ibrox Stadium before making the journey to Wellington Church

4/50 24 September 2019

A person dressed as a caricature of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a prison uniform stands outside the Supreme Court after it ruled that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal

5/50 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook aircraft are parked up at Manchester Airport on the day they collapsed after rescue talks failed. A total of 22,000 jobs – including 9,000 in UK – are to be lost following administration. More than 150,000 British holidaymakers need to be brought home, with the government and CAA hiring dozens of charter planes to fly customers home free of charge

6/50 22 September 2019

Fire performer Penella Bee performs before people take part in the North East Skinny Dip at Druridge Bay in Nothumberland, an annual event that marks the Autumn Equinox and raises money for MIND – the Mental Health Charity

7/50 21 September 2019

Protesters gather for a march and rally organised by “The People’s Vote” in Brighton, to call for politicians to give the public a final say referendum on Brexit

8/50 20 September 2019

Protesters in London joined millions across world to demand urgent action to save planet in the largest environmental protest in history

9/50 19 September 2019

Rapper Dave poses with the Mercury Prize: Albums of the Year Award at Apollo

10/50 18 September 2019

A surfer in action during sunrise at Tynemouth on the north east coast

11/50 17 September 2019

Protesters dressed as the Incredible Hulk and Robocop outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear appeals over three days from two separate challenges to the prorogation of Parliament brought in England and Scotland

12/50 16 September 2019

Farmer Tom Hoggard harvests pumpkins at Howe Bridge Farm in Yorkshire, ahead of Halloween

13/50 15 September 2019

Team Europe celebrate winning the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland. Europe won the last three singles matches to claim victory 14½-13½
Sunset at St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay

15/50 13 September 2019

Activists from PETA stage a demonstration outside a venue during London Fashion Week in London, Britain

16/50 12 September 2019

Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne attempts to stop a boundary in the fifth Test

17/50 11 September 2019

Storm clouds gather over the pier just off the North East coast at South Shields

18/50 10 September 2019

The peloton rides past the Angel of the North during stage four of the Tour of Britain from Gateshead to Kendal

19/50 9 September 2019

A penny farthing cyclist rides past St. John’s, Smith Square, Westminster, London

20/50 8 September 2019

Australia celebrate the wicket of England’s Craig Overton, which meant they won the fourth test and retained the Ashes

21/50 7 September 2019

Manchester City celebrate after Caroline Weir scored during their Women’s Super League match against Manchester United at Etihad Stadium. The WSL attendance record was smashed with 31,213 people watching the first Manchester derby of Women’s Super League era – nearly six times the previous WSL record

22/50 6 September 2019

A bull bumps into a plain clothes police officer (left) while being walked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to Darnford Farm in Banchory near Aberdeen. It coincided with the publication of Lord Bew’s review and an announcement of extra funding for Scottish farmers

23/50 5 September 2019

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cuts the hair of David Torrance MSP raising £1000 for the charity Maggie’s Centre in Kirkcaldy at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

24/50 4 September 2019

Australia’s David Warner looks dejected after being dismissed by England’s Stuart Broad during day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford in Manchester

25/50 3 September 2019

Anti Brexit demonstrators attend a protest at Parliament Square. Lawmakers returned from their summer recess Tuesday for a pivotal day in British politics as they challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s insistence that the UK leave the European Union on 31 October, even without a withdrawal agreement to cushion the economic blow

26/50 2 September 2019

Set building begins on Waterloo Place in Edinburgh ahead of filming for Fast and Furious 9

27/50 1 September 2019

Members of the Royal Southern Yacht Club and the Island Sailing Club take part during the annual cricket match between the clubs, which takes place on the Bramble Bank sandbank in the middle of the Solent at low tide
Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate at Whitehall in London

29/50 30 August 2019

One of the iconic ‘Girl with Balloon’ artworks by anonymous street artist Banksy is carried near one of the original locations the artwork appeared at on the Southbank in London

30/50 29 August 2019

The sun rises over the sculpture “The Couple” by artist Sean Henry, at Newbiggin-by-the-sea in Northumberland

31/50 28 August 2019

A person wearing a Boris Johnson ‘head’ digs a grave at the foot of a tombstone during a protest organised by Avaaz and Best for Britain, outside Downing Street in London

32/50 27 August 2019

Nat Lofthouse statue is covered in flags at the University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton

33/50 26 August 2019

Performers take part in Notting Hill Carnival. Nearly one million people were expected to attend Sunday and Monday’s carnival to celebrate Caribbean culture

34/50 25 August 2019

A competitor swims in the World Bog Snorkelling Championships in Llanwryd Wells, Powys

35/50 24 August 2019

People flock to Bournemouth beach as a heatwave spells potentially record high temperatures for the bank holiday weekend

36/50 23 August 2019

Fans of Bury FC deliver a symbolic coffin to the club’s home at Gigg Lane as the continuation of their membership to the football league lies in doubt. The club will lose their membership at midnight if they don’t find a buyer or prove that they have the means to pay off their debts

37/50 22 August 2019

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow DEFRA Secretary Sue Hayman during a visit to Rakefoot Farm, Castlerigg, Keswick where they are highlighting the danger of a No Deal Brexit to sheep farmers

38/50 21 August 2019

Festival goers walk along the towpath of the River Thames as they arrive for the Reading Festival at Richfield Avenue

39/50 20 August 2019

Police officers gather to pay their respects at the scene near Ufton Lane, where Thames Valley Police officer PC Andrew Harper, 28, died on Thursday. Jed Foster, 20, has appeared at Reading Magristrates’ Court where denied any involvement with the murder

40/50 19 August 2019

A fire that broke out at the site of Village Bakery on Coed Aben Road, Wrexham Industrial Estate in Wales

41/50 18 August 2019

England fielders crowd Pat Cummins as he see’s out the final over during day five of the second Ashes Test match against Australia at Lord’s Cricket Ground. The test ended in a draw

42/50 17 August 2019

Glew (centre) and Monroe Adams (right) pose for a selfie with a member of the public outside DragWorld London 2019, Europe’s largest drag convention, featuring drag stars from the US and UK during a two-day event at Olympia, London

43/50 16 August 2019

A grey seal with fishing net tangled around its neck amongst the colony on the beach at Horsey in Norfolk, as RSPCA data show the number of animals affected by plastic litter is at an all-time high, with incidents increasing by 22% in just four years

44/50 15 August 2019

A flock of sheep are herded past government buildings in London by members of Farmers for a People’s Vote, a campaign group

45/50 14 August 2019

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks during a press conference at the Mayflower Marina in Plymouth, southwest England, on August 14, 2019, ahead of her journey across the Atlantic to New York, aboard the Malizia II IMOCA class sailing yacht, where she will attend the UN Climate Action Summit next month. – A year after her school strike made her a figurehead for climate activists, Greta Thunberg believes her uncompromising message about global warming is getting through — even if action remains thin on the ground. The 16-year-old Swede, who sets sail for New York this week to take her message to the United States, has been a target for abuse but sees that as proof she is having an effect

46/50 12 August 2019

A hare runs on a moor near Ripon, North Yorkshire

47/50 11 August 2019

Britain’s Jamie Chadwick wins first-ever W Series title. She pocketed a prize of £410,000 and, having been signed as a development driver for Williams, she keeps up her hopes of making it into Formula One

48/50 10 August 2019

People gather on the beach as a raft carrying people dressed as clowns heads to shore during the annual Whitby Regatta in Whitby, England. At over 170 years old, the Whitby Regatta is thought to be the oldest sea regatta on the northeast coast of England and draws thousands of visitors each year

49/50 9 August 2019

Burryman Andrew Taylor, gets a nip of whisky using a straw, from resident Mary Hamblin, 82, as he parades through the town of South Queensferry, near Edinburgh, encased in burrs. The parade takes place on the second Friday of August each year and although the exact meaning of this tradition has been lost through the years it is thought to have begun in the 17th Century. The tradition is believed to bring good luck to the towns people if they give him whisky offered through a straw or a donation of money

50/50 8 August 2019

A mosque is seen amongst residential housing from the air during a mass take off at the annual Bristol hot air balloon festival in Bristol

He was a regular visitor to Ms Arcuri’s flat in east London, and attended numerous events promoting her fledgling company, according to The Sunday Times, which broke the story.

In a statement, Downing Street continued to insist he had done nothing wrong, saying: “The prime minister, as mayor of London, did a huge amount of work when selling our capital city around the world, beating the drum for London and the UK.”

Behind the scenes, No 10 is furious about it considers to be a “politically motivated attack” by the GLA, the office of the current mayor, Labour’s Sadiq Khan. It is understood Mr Johnson was given no warning of the announcement before a press release was issued by the GLA’s monitoring officer.

The referral does not mean or imply he is guilty, but is a request for an investigation. While London mayor, he was also a police and crime commissioner, which is why the police regulator is now involved.

The department for culture, media and sport was already investigating whether a business operated by Ms Arcuri obtained a £100,000 grant for UK-based companies to train people to avoid cyber attacks, despite being based in the US.

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And Labour has demanded an investigation by the cabinet secretary into the possible misuse of public funds, calling on Mr Johnson to resign if he is found guilty of wrongdoing.

It is claimed that in 2013 Ms Arcuri’s business received £10,000 in sponsorship cash from an organisation that the future prime minister was responsible for as mayor.

She was given a £15,000 government grant in 2014, under a programme to encourage foreign entrepreneurs to build businesses in Britain, and, last year, the further £100,000 award.

Ms Arcuri was also given preferential treatment when it came to joining overseas trade missions led by Mr Johnson, The Sunday Times reported.

Her business was alleged to have failed to meet the eligibility criteria for the three trade trips she attended in one year, but the rejections were overturned after Mr Johnson and his team intervened, it was claimed.

A statement by the authority read: “The monitoring officer of the Greater London Authority (GLA) has today recorded a ‘conduct matter’ against Boris Johnson and referred him to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) so it can assess whether or not it is necessary to investigate the former mayor of London for the criminal offence of misconduct in public office.

“The ‘conduct matter’ has been recorded as allegations have been brought to the attention of the monitoring officer that Boris Johnson maintained a friendship with Jennifer Arcuri and as a result of that friendship allowed Ms Arcuri to participate in trade missions and receive sponsorship monies in circumstances when she and her companies could not have expected otherwise to receive those benefits.” 

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The monitoring officer has a legal duty to record any conduct matters relating to the mayor in his capacity as equivalent to Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater London, the statement went on.

“A ‘conduct matter’ exists where there is information that indicates that a criminal offence may have been committed. It does not mean that this is proved in any way.

“The IOPC will now consider if it is necessary for the matter to be investigated.”