THE FORMER British spy behind a dossier of embarrassing allegations about Donald Trump was hired by England’s 2018 World Cup bid team because he was an expert on Russia, a source said.
An England 2018 senior bid official confirmed to the Press Association that Christopher Steele was brought in to gather information on the ultimately successful Russian bid for the football tournament.
But contrary to reports the ex-MI6 officer did not investigate Fifa, the official said.
Mr Steele has gone into hiding after being identified as the author of a report claiming Moscow held incriminating material, known in Russia as “Kompromat”, on the US president-elect, which it could use to blackmail him.
Mr Trump has again taken to Twitter to deny the allegations in Mr Steele’s dossier. In a string of tweets, the controversial tycoon said: “It now turns out that the phony allegations against me were put together by my political opponents and a failed spy afraid of being sued.
“Totally made up facts by sleazebag political operatives, both Democrats and Republicans – FAKE NEWS! Russia says nothing exists. Probably released by ‘Intelligence’ even knowing there is no proof, and never will be. My people will have a full report on hacking within 90 days!”
It is believed the information Mr Steele gathered about the controversial World Cup bidding process was passed to the FBI in the US and the Sunday Times.
The newspaper ran a string of stories on alleged corruption in Fifa including, in 2014, claims of vote-buying by the Russian bid. According to emails seen by Reuters, investigators from the FBI’s Eurasian organised crime squad met Mr Steele in London to discuss allegations.
The team later opened an investigation that led to more than 35 people being charged with a number of offences including corruption.
Downing Street has again distanced itself from Mr Steele after Mr Trump’s description of him as a “failed spy”. A spokesman for the Prime Minister told a regular Westminster briefing: “I haven’t seen that tweet. It’s a former employee of the government.”
Asked whether the Government had been in contact with Mr Trump to assure him there was no official involvement in the controversy, the spokesman said: “There is contact between the UK and the president-elect’s team over plans for the forthcoming visit of the Prime Minister to the US.”
The spokesman said the UK still engaged with Russia when asked if Moscow and London were involved in a new Cold War.
He said: “We are very clear that our relationship with Russia can’t be business as usual at the moment, but that’s not to say that we are not going to be engaged with Russia – we are. We have been very clear that where we have shared interests we will work together.”
Mr Steele, who runs London-based Orbis Business Intelligence Service, is said to have originally compiled the dossier on Mr Trump for the president-elect’s political opponents.
Former British ambassador to Russia Sir Andrew Wood said he spoke to Republican senator John McCain at a security conference in November about the existence of material that could compromise the president-elect.
Sir Andrew, ambassador to Moscow between 1995 and 2000, denied having seen the dossier at the time of the meeting and added Mr Steele was “very professional and thorough”.
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