BORIS Johnson is keeping quiet over allegations he helped a close friend benefit from public money and privileged access.

The Prime Minister was asked six times to clarify the status of his relationship with Jennifer Arcuri, a 34-year-old former model and entrepenur.

Each time, the Tory leader ignored the question, even when he was asked if his relationship with the businesswoman was sexual.

The Sunday Times alleged that during his time as Mayor of London, he and his office had allowed Arcuri to take part in trade missions, even though officials had suggested this was inappropriate.

The paper also revealed that businesses owned by Arcuri received more than £100,000 in public funds.

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Johnson was said to be a regular visitor to her flat in Shoreditch, east London, where her living room “apparently featured a chrome dancing pole”.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has already announced that it will investigate one of three grants given to companies set up by Arcuri.

Speaking to journalists accompanying him to a meeting at the UN in New York, Johnson refused to deny claims that he had failed properly to declare his friendship with the woman.

He told the reporters: “I’m here to talk about what we are doing in the UN and in tackling climate change and ensuring biodiversity and to serving as a bridge between our European and American friends when it comes to the Gulf and many other issues.”

Pressed over whether he should submit himself to an independent inquiry to answer the allegations of abuse of public funds he said: “I’m here, as a I say, to talk about the trip.”

Asked directly whether he was in a sexual relationship with Arcuri at the time she was receiving grants and privileged access, he said: “I’m here exclusively to talk about what we are doing at the UN.” 

In November 2014, Arcuri was a delegate on Johnson’s trade mission to Singapore and Malaysia.

She also met Johnson during his trade mission to New York in February 2015. Eight months later she was a delegate on one to Tel Aviv.

Jeremy Corbyn said that the allegations referred to the “abuse of power and misuse of public funds before he became prime minister”.

Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London, said last night that he would ask City Hall officials to “look into what processes were followed during that time to ensure that any lessons are learnt for the future”.

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The SNP’s Alison Thewliss urged the Tory leader to come clean.

She said: “Boris Johnson cannot simply close his eyes and wish this serious issue away. He must come clean over this blatant abuse of power.

“It is unacceptable that the unelected Prime Minister used his position as London mayor to hand out thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money and grant access to official overseas trade missions to a close friend - without disclosing his links and in violation of the code of conduct by which he was bound.

“This is a Tory leader who has gone rogue in every position he has ever held – from journalism to the office of Prime Minister. However, he cannot continue to sidestep scrutiny and mumble his away out of questioning. He must come clean immediately."

Arcuri told The Sunday Times: “Any grants received by my companies and any trade mission I joined were purely in respect of my role as a legitimate businesswoman.”

Arcuri’s British business partner and husband, Matthew Hickey, 36, dismissed the allegations as “trash” and a “smear piece” against their company.

He wrote on Twitter: “I reside permanently in both the UK & USA, my business is UK based with clients in the US.”