Boris Johnson asked for Jennifer Arcuri to be included on a trade trip to Tel Aviv while he was mayor of London, one of his former advisers has told Sky News.
The former City Hall worker, who worked closely with Mr Johnson and helped organise the business trip, said they were “surprised” to see the American businesswoman in the Israeli city during the visit.
Mr Johnson is facing a possible police investigation into allegations that he abused his position while mayor of London and did favours for Ms Arcuri.
A person who works for the current administration at City Hall said that to their knowledge it was the only time the mayor’s office had overruled a decision about which businesses should be allowed to attend a trade mission.
“I got to Tel Aviv and was sitting in the hotel bar with delegates when I saw Jennifer Arcuri walk in,” the ex-aide to Mr Johnson told Sky News.
“I turned to the person organising the trip and asked: ‘What’s she doing here?’ Apparently the mayor asked for her to be involved.”
Mr Johnson’s former adviser, who wishes to remain anonymous, said they had “heard the rumours” about Mr Johnson and Ms Arcuri but they were still “shocked” when she arrived in Tel Aviv for the trip, which had taken weeks of careful planning.
“There was never a mention of her joining,” the source added.
“I thought it was very unusual for her to be on this trip because it was so focused on educational technology and that wasn’t her business.”
The Independent Office for Police Conduct is considering whether Mr Johnson committed the serious charge of misconduct in public office over his links to Ms Arcuri.
It has been confirmed that Ms Arcuri, a former model, was involved in three international trade trips while Mr Johnson was mayor of London, despite being told not to apply for two of the trips because her business would not qualify.
Mr Johnson’s former adviser told Sky News they did not realise Ms Arcuri had been on other trips and had never heard of anyone being given such privileged access.
“There’s a caché that comes with being in a delegation,” the source added.
“It’s an advantage for a small company. To be afforded that opportunity three times is very unusual.”
The selection of delegates for mayoral trips is a careful process and all candidates are vetted to ensure they fit the brief of the trip.
Mr Johnson has repeatedly refused to answer questions about his relationship with Ms Arcuri.
Sky News asked Downing Street whether the prime minister had stepped in and asked for Ms Arcuri to go to Tel Aviv.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “You’ve heard the prime minister about this in numerous questions over the last week. Everything was appropriate and above board.”
Ms Acuri has finally broken her silence and responded to allegations about her relationship with Mr Johnson.
She was pictured leaving a salon in Los Angeles and denied any wrongdoing.
She told the Daily Mail that she not had special treatment to take part in three of Mr Johnson’s foreign trade trips.
Ms Arcuri said: “I had every right to be on those trips as a legitimate businesswoman and stand by everything that happened because these allegations are completely false.”
The PM is facing several reviews of his conduct and London Assembly members on the powerful oversight committee have asked him to provide further details about contact he had with Ms Arcuri.
Mr Johnson has until Monday to respond to their demands.