Labour is demanding answers over what the party said was “potentially serious impropriety” by Boris Johnson after it emerged that the former prime minister met the Venezuelan president in his role as a consultant for a hedge fund.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, said in a letter to Oliver Dowden, the deputy prime minister and Cabinet Office minister, that there were concerns that Johnson may have breached the ministerial code.

Under the code ministers must seek the advice of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) watchdog over any appointments they take up within two years of leaving office.

Johnson, who quit as prime minister in September 2022, held discussions with Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan president, in early February. The trip, first reported by the Sunday Times, was arranged as part of his work as a consultant to Merlyn Advisors, a London-based hedge fund.

The hedge fund’s co-founder is seeking to improve relations between Venezuela and western countries including the UK, according to the Financial Times.

Last week, the Guardian reported that Johnson had not sought Acoba’s advice for the role.

A source close to Johnson reiterated earlier comments saying that the rules had not been broken, and suggested no work had been undertaken that would require an application to Acoba.

In his letter, Thomas-Symonds wrote: “Mr Johnson’s repeated failure to abide by the ministerial code demonstrates his lack of respect and regard for standards in public life, and the essential safeguards in place to protect the public interest.”

He also expressed concern at separate reports that Johnson had been supported and briefed by the Foreign Office before the visit, saying: “This raises serious questions both about the government’s commitment to ensuring adherence to the rules, which are intended to guard against potential corruption and serious impropriety, and the use of publicly funded government resources for the benefit of a private interests – those of Mr Johnson, Merlyn Advisors, and their clients.”

In a series of questions, Thomas-Symonds asked Dowden to set out what the Cabinet Office knew in advance about the meeting, and Johnson’s role with Merlyn Advisors, and to explain the briefings and resources provided to Johnson.

He wrote: “We call upon you to launch an urgent investigation into this matter to identify the role of current ministers and use of government resources in relation to any potential breaches of the rules.”

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In a separate comment, Thomas-Symonds said: “Rishi Sunak promised a government of integrity at every level, but once again it appears to be one rule for the Conservatives and another for everyone else.

“The former prime minister’s visit to Venezuela raises serious question not only about his lobbying activities, but what the prime minister and foreign secretary knew and what publicly funded assistance was offered.”

A government spokesperson said: “The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has been clear that Boris Johnson visited the country in a personal capacity and was not acting on behalf of the government.

“We expect all former ministers to act in full accordance with the business appointment rules which – in the case of former ministers – are overseen by Acoba.”

In the nine months he remained an MP after he left No 10, Johnson declared more than £5m in earnings, hospitality and donations.

In June, Johnson was found to have committed a “clear and unambiguous” breach of the requirement set out in the ministerial code to seek Acoba’s advice before becoming a columnist at the Daily Mail. Dowden, who served as party chair under Johnson, decided not to take any further action on the breach of the rules.

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