Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured) approved the project against the advice of government planning inspectors on 14 January, just one day before changes to Tower Hamlets’ Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) were introduced.
This meant Desmond’s firm Northern and Shell avoided paying a levy of up to £50m for the project.
The site was also formerly owned by Westferry Printworks, which used to print The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Express, papers once owned by Desmond.
According to the Electoral Commission, Desmond made the donation in cash to the Conservatives on 28 January, weeks after the decision was approved. The businessman also donated £10,000 to the party in 2017.
When asked by the council to see all documents relating to the approval, Jenrick’s legal team instead denied the Housing Secretary showed any bias towards Desmond but accepted the decision was unlawful.
The approval has since been overturned.