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Former British prime minister Boris Johnson at the Texas State Capitol, in Austin, Tex., on May 23.BRANDON BELL/Getty Images

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been referred to police by the British government over potential breaches of lockdown rules during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding to scrutiny over the ousted leader’s conduct while in office.

The Cabinet Office, which is responsible for overseeing the operation of government, said it had made a referral to police based on information discovered while preparing submissions for a public inquiry into the pandemic.

The Times newspaper, which first reported the news on Tuesday, said ministerial diaries showed visits during the pandemic by friends to Chequers, a rural country mansion used as a residence by sitting prime ministers.

“Some abbreviated entries in Mr. Johnson’s official diary were queried by the Cabinet Office during preparation for the COVID inquiry,” Johnson’s spokesperson said.

“Following an examination of the entries, Mr. Johnson’s lawyers wrote to the Cabinet Office and privileges committee explaining that the events were lawful and were not breaches of any COVID regulations,” the spokesperson said.

Johnson remains one of British politics’ most recognizable figures and also one of its most divisive.

The voice of Brexit who secured a landslide election win in 2019, Johnson was then forced from office by his own Conservative Party less than three years later after a catalogue of scandals and missteps.

Nevertheless he retains a loyal core of support from grassroots to senior levels who feel is still their best hope of retaining power – a factor fuelling divisions in the ruling party ahead of an election expected to take place next year.

The Times article quoted Johnson’s team as calling the referral a “clearly politically motivated attempt to manufacture something out of nothing.”

The Cabinet Office confirmed it had passed information to the police “in line with obligations in the civil service code.”

London’s Metropolitan Police said they were assessing that information, which related to potential breaches of health protection regulation between June 2020 and May 2021.

Thames Valley Police, the force that covers the area around Chequers, did not respond to a request for comment.

Johnson was previously fined by police for attending an event to celebrate his birthday in Downing Street in June 2020, making him the first prime minister found to have broken the law while in office. Those fines contributed to his ouster as prime minister last year.

He also remains under investigation by a parliamentary committee over whether he intentionally or recklessly misled the House of Commons in a series of statements, where he said no rules were broken in the gatherings. Johnson has said he did not lie over the lockdown parties.

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