Channel 4 News reveals Ukip has been soliciting donations from a businessman from whom the party publicly distanced itself last year due to his “unpalatable” opinions on women and homosexuality.
Last year, Greek shipping and investment tycoon Demetri Marchessini was Ukip‘s sixth largest individual cash donor – until some of his controversial views were revealed in the UK press, and Ukip distanced itself from the businessman.
However, Channel 4 News can now reveal that Mr Marchessini has made at least one more major donation to the party, on Christmas eve 2013, and is still in contact with Ukip’s treasurer.
Mr Marchessini, who is based in London, holds a large number of controversial views.
In February and March last year Mr Marchessini gave Ukip two gifts of £5,000. That was before, however, reports emerged about some of Mr Marchessini’s views – including that women should not be allowed to wear trousers.
Marchessini once published a book, Women in Trousers: a Rear View. The book included photographs of women in the street wearing trousers, taken from behind. The aim, Mr Marchessini said, was to show how unflattering women looked in trousers.
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Ukip responded, in May last year, by distancing itself from Mr Marchessini. A Ukip spokesperson told the BBC that: “We neither share nor condone these views. He can donate to whoever he wishes to donate to. Those donations do not come with strings attached.”
On Channel 4 News, in May last year, the Ukip MEP Roger Helmer also distanced his party from Mr Marchessini’s views, saying: “The truth is, and I’ve been around politics for a long time, you can pick on any party … and you can find individuals who say things that the mainstream of that party would not be prepared to accept. This is an example.”
It is a view echoed today by Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who, when questioned by Channel 4 News over the donations by Mr Marchessini, said: “I don’t know, you’ll have to ask the treasurer won’t you? I’m sure he gave the money in good faith, the money was taken in good faith.”
When asked whether Ukip should take money from a man with these kinds of views, Mr Farage added: “Possibly not, no. Ask the treasurer. I don’t run everything.”
Ukip distanced itself further in January this year – after Mr Marchessini took out an advert in the Daily Telegraph in which he said “sodomy has always been a crime”.
He was responding to an article by Times columnist Libby Purves, which was critical of Vladimir Putin for Russia’s laws clamping down on “homosexual propaganda”.
Mr Marchessini wrote: “In the Orthodox religion, homosexuality has always been a major sin… The vast majority of Russians are Orthodox, and abhor homosexuality.”
There is no such thing as fidelity in homosexual relationships. They just all go out looking for action. Demetri Marchessini
Following the article, Ukip spokespeople were quoted saying they “vehemently opposed” Mr Marchessini’s views.
One spokesman told the Huffington Post: “Mr Marchessini’s comments are entirely his own and he very publicly divorced from the party the last time we vehemently opposed his eccentric and unpalatable views.”
A Ukip spokeswoman was quoted in the Guardian as saying that when Ukip “publicly opposed the crazy female trouser-wearing comments made by Marchessini last year he made it absolutely abundantly clear that he is no longer associated with the party at all”.
“Even back then he was adamant that his thoughts were strictly his own. His only connection to Ukip is the fact he is an EU withdrawalist,” the spokeswoman said.
However, Channel 4 News has discovered that Mr Marchessini has made at least one further donation to Ukip. And he told this programme that the Ukip Treasurer Stuart Wheeler, a long-standing bridge partner, calls him to ask for more money “from time to time”.
Channel 4 News visited Mr Marchessini at his opulent Knightsbridge home to ask him about his views, and his involvement with Ukip.
Sitting at a hunting desk, opposite a pair of enormous elephant tusks, Mr Marchessini told Political Correspondent Michael Crick that he supports Ukip because the Conservative party is now “left wing” and he believes David Cameron to be “incompetent.”
He said that Ukip is the only party that guarantees an exit from the European Union.
In what’s thought to be Marchessini’s first-ever TV interview, he also elaborated on some of his controversial views, many of which he has previously expressed in his blog.
If you make love on Friday and you make love on Sunday you can’t say Saturday is rape. Demetri Marchessini
Asked by Michael Crick if he thinks the “nature of homosexual relationships is different”, Mr Marchessini said: “Oh completely different, there’s no love, only lust – and also the actions they do are completely different.
“They go out at night and they pick up, five, ten, fifteen different partners in one night. Is that love?”
When Crick suggested that many homosexuals are in stable relationships, Mr Marchessini went on: “But it’s not husband and wife, they’re roommates and both of them go out cruising.”
“There is no such thing as fidelity in homosexual relationships. They just all go out looking for action. That’s the way it is.”
On women, Mr Marchessini was asked if he thought women should be banned from wearing trousers, and he said they should – because skirts are the only way they will excite men.
Asked why women should dress to excite men, Mr Marchessini said: “Because that is the only way the world is going to continue. Because if they don’t men are going to stop f***ing them.
“Do you understand, and may I tell you with great respect, that the incidents of love making in western Europe have fallen drastically?”
He said one reason for this was because women wear trousers. He said another reason was “because women work”.
He also said that it is not possible for a husband to rape his wife.
“If you make love on Friday and you make love on Sunday you can’t say Saturday is rape,” he told Channel 4 News.
“Once a woman accepts, she accepts. And especially when she makes a vow on her wedding day.”
Ukip’s donations have increased with the party’s popularity – and most significantly have been coming from Yorkshire businessman Paul Sykes, who funded the party’s recent European election poster campaign.
But this hasn’t stopped Ukip calling Mr Marchessini for donations, he says.
“The treasurer of Ukip is an old friend of mine and from time to time he rings me up and asks if I’ll help.”
He says he doesn’t keep track of the phone calls he receives, and says he could not recall if the treasurer (Stuart Wheeler) had been called for further donations “in the past few weeks”.
The next time he is called, if he is, then he will consider whether or not to donate, Mr Marchessini says.
He said: “I will think about it, but I don’t think they need it now they have Mr Sykes. I am much less keen to give when they have endless money from Mr Sykes. Why should we pay? Let him pay.”
And he adds that Ukip has no responsibility for his views.
“I am not an official of Ukip,” he said. “I have no position at all, and they are not responsible for my views. I can say what I like and they say what they like.”
Ukip is yet to give a detailed response to Channel 4 News in relation to Mr Marchessini at this time.