BBC chair linked to Russian crypto firm faces inquiry over BoJo loan

Listen to this article.

BBC chair and crypto investor Richard Sharp has asked the BBC board to review any possible conflicts of interest in his current role, stemming from claims that he helped to secure former prime minister Boris Johnson an £800,000 loan guarantor right before he appointed Sharp as chair. 

The former prime minister told Sky News this morning that Sharp “knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances — I can tell you that for one hundred percent ding dang sure.” However, Johnson doesn’t deny that discussions about the loan took place. Sharp, a former Goldman Sachs banker, maintains that he was fairly appointed.

Sharp’s cryptocurrency ties to Russian oligarch Vladamir Potanin had already put his appointment as BBC chair into question. Potanin was sanctioned by the UK government in a wave of restrictions placed on Putin’s inner circle.

Known as the “Nickel King,” Potanin owns Atomyze, a blockchain company focused on trading metals for crypto tokens. In 2019, Sharp became an early investor of Atomyze, with payments made through a Cayman Islands-listed company, ABCP GP ltd.

The BBC chair only served as Atomyze’s company director for two months, but Swiss corporate filings reveal Rob Osborne, COO and CFO of Sharp’s personal investment office, still sits on the crypto firm’s board of directors.

Boris Johnson was told to cut ties with Sharp

The Sunday Times reported that Sharp helped arrange for Johnson to borrow £800,000 from Sharp’s distant cousin, Sam Blyth, over a series of dinners in 2020. Johnson soon after recommended Sharp for the role of BBC chair — a move questioned by MPs who described Sharp as having “no editorial experience whatsoever.”

Before his appointment, the Cabinet Office reportedly flagged the conflict of interest and told Johnson to stop seeking advice from Sharp. Indeed, just like the BBC chair, Johnson is no stranger to crypto. This month, the former PM’s office received a political donation of one million pounds from Thai-based crypto investor, Christopher Harborne. 

Read more: Boris Johnson received record $1.2M donation from serial crypto investor

In 2021, Protos reported how Harborne, using his alter ego Chakrit Sakunkrit, held shares in Digifinex (Bitfinex and Tethers’ parent company) when he donated tens of millions of pounds into various UK right-wing parties.

Johnson has also been paid a quarter of a million pounds from a blockchain company to appear as a keynote speaker at a conference in Singapore.

For more informed news, follow us on Twitter and Google News or listen to our investigative podcast Innovated: Blockchain City.