Home Tech The ‘street fighter’ and a £70k donation: how Christen Ager-Hanssen got close to the Tories

The ‘street fighter’ and a £70k donation: how Christen Ager-Hanssen got close to the Tories

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The ‘street fighter’ and a £70k donation: how Christen Ager-Hanssen got close to the Tories

Christen Ager-Hanssen was in Mallorca conducting a spy operation when the email from Conservative Party headquarters arrived.

“Thank you for indicating that you would like to attend our private dinner with Suella Braverman,” a party official wrote to the Norwegian businessman last September. “It promises to be a great evening.”

As Home Secretary at the time, Braverman held one of the highest positions in the British security apparatus, overseeing the police and MI5. Ager-Hanssen has boasted in media interviews about using veterans of the CIA, Mossad and MI6 in the operations he carries out.

The services he says he offers to his clients, which reportedly include “eccentric billionaires,” range from covert surveillance to “social engineering” and “infiltration.” To gain access to the top levels of the British government, he appears to have settled for something simpler: cash.

In July 2023, three months before the Braverman dinner, the Tories received a sum of £70,000 contribution from nChain, a cryptocurrency and software company of which Ager-Hanssen was CEO.

As well as questions about the checks the Tories carried out on a man once described as a ‘mercenary’, there are also doubts about the donation. The company that Ager-Hanssen ran needed the approval of its shareholders to make a donation. And the company says this is not given.

Following revelations about payments from Russia and elsewhere that have flowed into the Tories’ election coffers, questions about the nChain donation are adding to concerns that the money that shapes British politics is receiving little. strict supervision.

Ager-Hanssen claims to have organized a sting operation to discredit a lawyer pursuing claims in the cryptocurrency industry. Photo: Rex/Shutterstock

‘Data nerds and intelligence officers’

For Ager-Hanssen, being appointed boss of nChain in November 2022 was a return to prominence after an eventful career. He went bust in the dotcom bubble of the early 2000s. Creditors chased him for millions, including Barclays.

Now 61, he calls himself a “street fighter” – unlike the masses who drift with the currents of life, he says, as jellyfish. “If people screw me, I’ll screw them ten times harder,” he once said declared. “I’m a crazy bastard.”

In 2014, Ager-Hanssen told how a Swedish banking magnate hired him to fight fraud allegations. He said in a press interview that the staff he assembled for such tasks included “data nerds, financial nerds and former intelligence officers from the CIA, MI6 and (the) Mossad,” the American, British and Israeli foreign intelligence services. One of his tactics, he revealed, was attending meetings with the opposing side’s lawyer, who wore a hidden microphone.

It was different lurch that led him to the top job at nChain. Using a former Mossad agent posing as an Argentine businessman, Ager-Hanssen secretly filmed an American lawyer, Kyle Roche, making off-hand comments about his clients. When the videos appeared online, Roche’s reputation was damaged.

According to a account Ager-Hanssen later admitted to a Norwegian newspaper that he orchestrated Roche’s elimination. That appears to have endeared him to nChain, as Roche had led a high-profile lawsuit for some of the company’s opponents in the cryptocurrency world. Shortly after the Roche sting, Ager-Hanssen was named CEO of nChain.

He soon made another useful connection. On June 29, 2023, Ager-Hanssen “had the pleasure of speaking with” Rishi Sunak, according to a after on X, then called Twitter. That was the day the Prime Minister attended a major Conservative summer fundraiser. The party does not want to say whether Ager-Hanssen was there.

On the same day, emails obtained by the Guardian showed, Ager-Hanssen proposed to party officials he says the idea of ​​a mobile app would make the Tories millions by letting brands like Amazon and Coca-Cola sell directly to party members.

Senior Conservative officials were enthusiastic. They wanted the ‘True Blue’ app to be ready for the October party conference. While discussing the project with Ager-Hanssen, the £70,000 donation from nChain arrived. But soon Ager-Hanssen embarked on yet another covert operation – against nChain itself.

Suella Braverman, then Home Secretary, at the 2023 Tory party conference. Photo: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

According to his own account in the Norwegian press, Ager-Hanssen flew to Mallorca on September 11 with a hidden recorder to collect dirt from an employee of one of nChain’s financiers. At 2.26pm a Tory official emailed with details of the evening with Braverman, which took place two days later.

“The dinner will be kindly hosted by Alan Howard, a key supporter of the party, at his beautiful home,” the official said – the house is a four-storey Grade II listed house in central London. Howard, a hedge fund billionaire which Lady Gaga hired for to sing at his wedding he donated £1.8 million.

Braverman was “invited by the party and went to the event,” a person close to her said.

‘Serious and inappropriate’

The Tories did not respond to questions about any checks on Ager-Hanssen before he was given access to a senior minister. They did not dispute that he attended the dinner.

Days later, Ager-Hanssen made public the results of his operation against nChain. He disputed the company’s claim that it makes technology created by the mysterious inventor of cryptocurrency. On September 30, nChain has a rack saying Ager-Hanssen was fired after “behaving in a serious and inappropriate manner.”

A representative for nChain told the Guardian that he only became aware of the £70,000 donation to the Conservatives after Ager-Hanssen was sacked. It turned out that it was Ager-Hanssen, the representative claimed, who had ordered the payment. There was “no board or shareholder approval for this donation”, meaning it does not appear to have complied with the provisions of the Companies Act regarding corporate donations.

Ager-Hanssen did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the Guardian.

A Conservative party spokesman said the True Blue app project was dead. Asked about the donation, the spokesperson said: “Those would be questions for the company as it relates to the Companies Act.”

There have been no more donations from nChain, nor any donations in Ager-Hanssen’s name. But from early April, the first thing listed on Ager-Hanssen’s X-profile is ‘The Conservative Party’.

Alt text: Do you have information about this story? Email tom.burgis@theguardian.com, or (on a non-work phone) use Signal or WhatsApp to message +44 7721 857348

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