Former BBC and GB News presenter Andrew Neil has launched defamation proceedings against Jennifer Arcuri, the American businesswoman who claims she had a four-year affair with Boris Johnson, following a spat on Twitter.
Court records show Mr Neil, 72, filed a claim against Ms Arcuri on Wednesday as he followed through on threatened legal action following a heated exchange in December in which Ms Arcuri made allegations about his name being in an address book owned by the convicted child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
In the row, which is understood to have started over a disagreement about the effectiveness of Covid vaccines, Ms Arcuri ultimately accused Mr Neil of being a “paid for pharma puppet” and “on the pedo elite train,” according to now-deleted tweets.
Mr Neil, who is now set to host a politics programme for Channel 4, said Ms Arcuri’s comments were “evil lies” and “vile and untrue accusations”. He has said he never met Epstein and said his contact details were only in the infamous “black book” because he had previously met Ghislaine Maxwell – recently convicted of sex trafficking underage girls for Epstein – in New York during the 1990s.
Replying to Ms Arcuri’s post, on 6 December last year, Mr Neil asked the American to “please DM your address/contact details so my lawyers can serve legal papers against you for this clear libel and defamation”.
He added: “I’ve instructed the papers to be drawn up now. All those tweeting support for and spreading her tweet will also be served.”
In another he said his legal team “has prepared a massive case against you and we’ll be seeking exemplary damages,” adding papers would be served in both the UK and US.
Ms Arcuri responded by saying: “Is someone scared? Let’s talk about what you’ve published about me…”
The mother-of-one, who lives in California, is listed as a litigant in person on the court filings, the PA news agency reports, suggesting she does not currently have a legal representative.
Ms Arcuri shot to prominence in March last year after claiming she had an affair with Mr Johnson, now the prime minister, when he was the Mayor of London – prompting outcry into the decision to award her start-up business tens of thousands of pounds in public money.
It was announced in May that Mr Johnson would not face a criminal investigation over the matter due to a lack of evidence.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct said in its report that there was “some evidence” the pair had an “intimate relationship”, but nothing to suggest the then mayor had influenced payments to Ms Arcuri or her companies. He has always denied any wrongdoing.
Both Mr Neil and Ms Arcuri have been contacted for comment.
Additional reporting by PA