As a child with star eyes growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, & # 39; Jennifer Arcuri loved fairy tales & # 39; and they often entertained romantic notions of distant England. So when she walked through the gates of Buckingham Palace on December 9, 2014, she must have thought she lived in a fairy tale herself.
When she was 29, she had only lived in London for three years, but had already bewitched the mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
Now the pole-dancing model-changed technology entrepreneur hoped to captivate himself with the son of the queen, the Duke of York, who organized a celebration to celebrate the creation of the Digital 5, an annual gathering of global IT innovators, politicians, and officials who held his first conference in London that year.
There was no guarantee that the two would be introduced, but as one of her friends said at the time: & # 39; I don't see Jen wasting this opportunity. & # 39; And so it turned out.
Mutual benefits: Boris Johnson and Jennifer Arcuri at one of her technical peaks in 2013
They make their way through milling guests – mostly men in suits – and sources say she looked up for Prince Andrew, flashed a megawatt smile and explained a bit of her background. Their meeting was & # 39; short & # 39; but afterwards she declared the prince as & # 39; a real darling & # 39 ;. What he made of her is not recorded.
As everyone knows, the duke is not immune to the charms of glamorous women, but on this occasion he can be forgiven for being seized. Days later his name would appear in explosive court papers that make claims – all strongly denied – about his friendship with the condemned American pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
However, Mrs. Arcuri got what she wanted: another big name to drop, another profile-reinforcing story with which the movers and shakers of the technological world can be welcomed.
As The Mail reveals on Sunday today, the greater significance of her palace outing was perhaps that, according to her friends, it was designed by her close friend, Boris Johnson. Almost five years later, the prime minister is confronted with claims that he has not explained a series of potential conflicts of interest about his friendship with Mrs. Arcuri during his time as mayor.
She received £ 126,000 in public money and privileged access to three official overseas trade missions led by Mr. Johnson, who was a regular visitor to her flat in Shoreditch, East London. Friends and acquaintances interviewed by this newspaper made Mrs. Arcuri a lively, cheerful young woman who, by pure personality, amazed the people she believed she could help her achieve her goals.
Flying across borders: Miss Arcuri poses with both the Union flag and the American flag in her hometown in West London
& # 39; A real cutie & # 39 ;: Miss Arcuri is thought to have loved the Duke
A man close to her around the time of the Palace event remembered: & She said that Boris had helped her get on the guest list. She really wanted to make investments for her different companies. She boasted to anyone who wanted to listen that she would go to the palace and not remain silent about it afterwards. & # 39;
There was a champagne reception and then Minister Maude of the cabinet spoke briefly about making online government services more user-friendly. A guest described the soiree as a & # 39; melting pot of royalty & # 39; s, prominent politicians, government digiterati and tech start-up folk. & # 39;
Another friend recalled that Ms. Arcuri's help getting through the door typed her & # 39; symbiotic relationship with Boris & # 39 ;, who had considerably strengthened his profile in the industry by giving a speech at the first event from her company.
& # 39; Jen presented himself as a kind of gateway to Boris, & # 39; said the friend. & # 39; If you were a technical start-up founder and wanted access to the mayor's office, everyone knew you'd ask her. New technology companies were currently looking for proximity to the government. I understand that she has made many introductions for Boris staff. And it worked both ways. The mayor's office used her for introductions to the technology world.
& # 39; She spoke about Boris as if she had his ear and as if he relied on her for advice and connections and information when it came to technology. & # 39;
After arriving in London in 2011 and completing an MBA at an international business school, Arcuri founded Innotech, a series of network top conferences that bring young entrepreneurs around politics and policymakers around the emerging East London Tech City – the Silicon Roundabout brand.
The friend added: “She really wanted to get involved with the British government and started injecting herself into all aspects of Tech City, for example during events at Union Flag.
& # 39; She enjoyed bragging about Boris. She enjoyed doing things like that: & # 39; I trust you, you can't tell anyone, no soul knows, don't say anything & # 39; except she did that with 20 different people.
A flair for the dramatic: as soon as Miss Arcuri went to the palace, according to one source, she would not remain silent
& # 39; Once she had brought you into her self-confidence, she would start talking to his name very regularly, as if she were an intimate person of his, as in: & # 39; I'll have to ask Boris about that. & # 39; & # 39;
Today they are on either side of the world – Mrs. Arcuri living in California, Mr. Johnson the resident of Downing Street 10 – but their friendship is now the subject of fierce research.
On Friday, the prime minister was referred to the watchdog of the Independent Office for Police Conduct and he could still be confronted with a criminal investigation into whether he was giving Mrs. Arcuri a favorable treatment. The complaint was lodged with the IOPC because of Mr. Johnson's role as police and crime commissioner in London from 2008 to 2016.
The move was criticized yesterday. Environmental Secretary Theresa Villiers told the Today program of BBC Radio 4 that the & # 39; case was blown away in all proportions & # 39; and added: & # 39; The prime minister is very clear that decency was observed. This appears to be a politically motivated complaint. I find this really a distraction and it is people who want to use the complaints process in a very political way. & # 39;
Fourteen days before her palace outing, Mrs. Arcuri was one of the 26 delegates who chose to travel with Mr. Johnson on a tax-paid trade mission to Singapore and Malaysia. To be eligible, delegates had to prove that their companies have been trading for at least 12 months. Arcuri was the only one that did not meet the selection criteria.
A London-based fashion designer said she had borrowed Mrs. Arcuri some clothes for the trip: & although she had this profile and would not stop talking about the influential people she knew – especially Boris – I got the feeling that her businesses didn't quite match all the buzz. She didn't have much money.
A London-based fashion designer said she got the feeling, despite the fact that Miss Arcuri had dropped her businesses & # 39; did not quite match all the crowds & # 39 ;. Shown at the Barnes Fashion Show
& # 39; For example, she didn't have the right outfits to wear for Singapore and I lent her a pair of silky tops. & # 39;
She added: & # 39; We were very friendly and I remember persuading me to come to one of her conferences where Boris was speaking. Afterwards she asked if I wanted to meet him. We went to a room behind the stage. They were very tactile with each other, flirty and I felt a bit uncomfortable, so I left. & # 39;
At this point, Mrs. Arcuri was deeply immersed in the boozy Tech City party scene. & # 39; She was ubiquitous, & # 39; a friend said. & # 39; But I suspect that Boris and the town hall probably overestimated her influence. & # 39; Outside of parties, she enjoyed gossiping with friends at the Hoxton Hotel and Shoreditch House, a member club. A senior figure in the technical industry said: & I don't remember being lobbied under pressure or by her, but I know other people did … With her outfits and her Boris stories I found her a little corny, but in the end she was a nice person to have. & # 39;
A former cabinet minister recalls that Arcuri seemed to be & # 39; at every event & # 39; between the summer of 2013 and 2016 and added: & # 39; She was omnipresent. She was everywhere. If there was a cyber security meeting, she would be there.
& # 39; She had no trouble walking towards people – seniors – and really selling herself and having fun. She was a character that was bigger than life.
& # 39; I remember her sales pitch. She would say: & # 39; Give me your phone and I'll show you how easy it is to hack you. & # 39; Of course I never did that. & # 39; In 2016, Arcuri met her future husband Matthew Hickey in London and they moved to the northwest where they ran a new company called Hacker House that taught people about cyber security and & # 39; ethical & # 39; hacking.
For eight months they rented a £ 1 million mansion in Cheshire where they would hold hacking seminars.
One of the hackers who employed Arcuri was the activist Lauri Love, who fought his extradition to the US at the time because he allegedly hacked the FBI. Photos from this newspaper show love in the kitchen opposite Arcuri during one event at the property.
In another image, Arcuri is putting on a Guy Fawkes mask from the controversial anonymous hacking group that has previously launched cyber attacks on governments. A source said: & # 39; She wanted to hide her identity. She said: & # 39; I look terrible, I don't have any makeup on. & # 39; & # 39;
Yet her profiles on social media tell a different story. Included are selfies with any number of politicians, including Michael Gove, Zac Goldsmith and Justine Greening.
Miss Arcuri has been described by another source as a & # 39; social climber & # 39; and added that & # 39; she liked to drop names to use people, to get into networks. & # 39;
A second source that Arcuri knew from that time claimed that Johnson had visited the house in Cheshire in the spring of 2016.
They said: & # 39; She told me: & # 39; Guess who recently came by and came back at some point? Alexander! & # 39; I said: & # 39; Well, who is Alexander? And then she told me the correct name [Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson].
& # 39; But that was the name she used – & # 39; Alexander the Great & # 39;. & # 39;
Describing Arcuri as a & # 39; social climber & # 39 ;, he added: & # 39; She liked to drop names to attract people, to get into networks, a little looking for funding. I suppose it's what you do if you are an entrepreneur. If someone has crossed lines, it was not so much Jen that he tried to weave himself into these circles, but Boris because he blurred the lines a little more. & # 39;
The source also said that Arcuri was driving an expensive BMW at the time and added: “It was all for the show – a very American model. If you are from Los Angeles, you must look successful to be successful. Pretend until you make it. & # 39;
Ms. Arcuri did not respond to requests for comment, but said earlier: & All grants received by my companies and every trade mission I joined was purely for my role as a legitimate businesswoman. & # 39;
A spokesperson for Downing Street said: & # 39; The prime minister, as mayor of London, has done a tremendous amount of work selling our capital around the world and beat the drums for London and the UK.
& # 39; Everything was done with decency and in the normal way. & # 39;
Buckingham Palace said last night: & # 39; The Prince's reception welcomed more than 100 guests. & # 39;
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