Rishi Sunak’s Bodyguard Arrested for Betting on Election

Posted on: June 20, 2024, 06:47h. 

Last updated on: June 21, 2024, 06:42h.

One of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s close personal protection officers has been arrested for allegedly placing bets on the timing of the forthcoming general election.

Rishi Sunak, Craig Williams, Laura Saunders, Tony Lee, Met Police, Election bets, UKGC
Rishi Sunak, pictured above outside 10 Downing Street, his London residence, with security visible in the background. On Wednesday, the Conservative Party betting scandal deepened to include one of Sunak’s bodyguards and another election candidate, Laura Saunders. (Image: Flickr/Simon Walker)

The unnamed officer is understood to be a member of the London Metropolitan Police Force’s Royalty and Specialist Protection (RaSP) Command unit.

Metropolitan Police confirmed that the individual was arrested Monday on suspicion of misconduct in public office. He has been suspended from duty and the case has been referred to the force’s Directorate of Professional Standards and the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

The arrest came a week after news that Sunak’s closest political aide, Craig Williams, was under investigation by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) for placing a bet on a July election just three days before Sunak called the ballot. Williams hoped to stand in the election as Conservative candidate for Montgomeryshire, Wales.

Betting Scandal Deepens

On Wednesday, it emerged that another Conservative Party candidate was also under investigation. She has been named by The Independent as Laura Saunders, who is standing as MP for Bristol North West. Saunders is married to Tony Lee, the Conservative Party’s director of campaigns.

Unlike the US, betting on political events is legal in the UK, although sportsbooks are extremely vigilant around any market where a small group of people could have privileged information about an outcome of an event before it becomes public knowledge.

Betting with insider information is a crime in the UK, punishable by up to two years in prison. Meanwhile, misconduct in public office comes with a maximum prison sentence of life.

It’s understood that the gambling commission recently contacted domestic betting operators asking them to examine all substantial bets made on a July election.

‘Error of Judgment’

Sunak announced a July 4 election on May 22. The timing was surprising because the prime minister’s Conservative Party has been trailing in the polls since the start of 2022. Some sportsbooks have the odds of a change of government at 1/200, an implied probability of 99.5%.

Sunak was under no obligation to call an election until December 2015. Under UK law, general elections must be held no more than five years apart, but their timing is otherwise decided by the prime minister.

Williams told the BBC last week he had made a “huge error of judgment,” but refused to say whether the bet had been made with insider knowledge, citing the ongoing UKGC investigation.

“I don’t want it to be a distraction from the campaign. I should have thought through how it looks,” he added.