Animal charity founder denies Boris Johnson intervened in Afghanistan evacuation

Animal charity founder denies Boris Johnson intervened in Afghanistan evacuation
Paul Farthing said he had ‘absolutely no dealings with anybody in government’

Nowzad founder Paul “Pen” Farthing has denied Boris Johnson intervened to help him fly animals out of Kabul after the Taliban took over Afghanistan.

It comes amid allegations the prime minister assisted with the approval of the animal charity’s evacuation of cats and dogs while thousands of people desperate to flee the Taliban were left behind.

Mr Johnson has dismissed the reports as “total rhubarb” – despite leaked correspondence suggesting then-foreign secretary Dominic Raab and No 10 were involved in the decision.

Mr Farthing stood by the PM on Friday night, asking: “If Boris Johnson intervene[d], why did I almost not make it out of Kabul?”

He told Channel 4 News: “I’ve never ever had his phone number [or] messaged him.

“I believe it’s just absolutely crazy, because if he had prioritised me, he didn’t do a very good job because I almost never made it out.”

He added: “If internal emails are going backwards and forwards, I have no oversight of those whatsoever.”

The animal rescue charity founder said he had “absolutely no dealings with anybody in government” aside from Conservative MP Trudy Harrison, then parliamentary private secretary to Mr Johnson.

Mr Farthing said Ms Harrison had “refused” to knock on the PM’s door and ask for his permission to evacuate the animals.

<p>Mr Farthing said he ‘never ever’ had contact with the Prime Minister </p>

Mr Farthing said he ‘never ever’ had contact with the Prime Minister

Mr Farthing, a former marine, said the the British military had not helped get dogs and cats on an evacuation flight.

“They had left,” he told Channel 4 presenter Fatima Manji. “They had gone, no British troops whatsoever facilitated my entry into Kabul airport.

“At no time did I ask anybody that we should jump a queue to get out of Kabul.

“I can say with my hand on my heart with absolute honesty, I have no idea who in government approved our flight. The first time I found out, it was exactly the same time as everybody else was when Ben Wallace tweeted at 1.30 in the morning UK time that he had approved for our aircraft to land in Kabul.

“I’ve no idea who said yes, I’m just so grateful they did. Sixty-seven people are now starting new lives here in the United Kingdom and whoever said yes, they should be incredibly proud of that.”

Mr Farthing said he had “never ever” had any direct contact with Mr Johnson or his wife, Carrie.

“If anybody spoke to Carrie Johnson I have absolutely no idea because no one told me if they did, I have never ever had any direct contact with the Prime Minister or with his wife,” he said.

Downing Street also insisted Mr Johnson played “no role” in authorising individual evacuations during the RAF rescue mission, Operation Pitting.

As Kabul fell to the Taliban, Mr Farthing launched a high-profile campaign to get his staff and animals out, using a plane funded through donations.

The government sponsored clearance for the charter flight, leading to allegations that animals had been prioritised over people in the exit effort.

<p>Sir Philip Barton apologised for misleading MPs</p>

Sir Philip Barton apologised for misleading MPs

Sir Philip Barton, the Foreign Office’s permanent under-secretary, had told the Foreign Affairs Committee that Nigel Casey, the Prime Minister’s special representative for Afghanistan, had not received any correspondence referring to any intervention in the evacuation of animals.

But in emails revealed by Newsnight, Mr Casey was seen to have asked an official “to seek clear guidance for us from No 10 asap on what they would like us to do” in the case.

Sir Philip had already written to the committee’s chairman, Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, to apologise after previously revealed emails showed Mr Casey had received correspondence.

He said he had given “inadvertently inaccurate answers”.