Arron Banks Says Brexit Donations Came From U.K. Businesses
(Bloomberg) -- Arron Banks, the insurance businessman whose millions of pounds of donations to a pro-Brexit campaign are being investigated by police, denied Russia was involved and said the funds came from his U.K. business.
“There was no Russian money and no interference,” Banks said in a sometimes heated interview on the BBC’s “The Andrew Marr Show” on Sunday. “It’s U.K.-generated cash from my group of companies.”
The U.K.’s National Crime Agency said Thursday it will investigate donations made to pro-Brexit groups, including Banks’s Leave.EU, after the Electoral Commission said it may have “knowingly concealed” the source of 8 million pounds ($10.3 million) given to the campaign.
The furor is bolstering a drive by anti-Brexit forces to hold a second referendum, though it’s unlikely any evidence of meddling would be enough to derail Britain’s departure from the EU. U.K. officials have said intensive negotiations with Brussels could deliver a divorce agreement within the next few weeks.
Nevertheless it’s awkward for Prime Minister Theresa May, who regularly accuses Russia of meddling in foreign elections but never includes the Brexit referendum in the list.
The election commission said it believed criminal offenses had been committed after uncovering details that Isle of Man-incorporated Rock Holdings, in which Banks is a majority shareholder, was involved in the donations. Under British election law, only U.K.-based companies and people can fund campaigns. The Isle of Man is a British dependency.
Banks said his U.K. company Rock Services -- not Rock Holdings -- was the source of the funding via the insurance companies it owns.
“This is about undermining the Brexit result” by a “group of vicious MPs,” Banks said in the interview. “Rock Services has all sorts of revenues -- we insure half a million people.”
At issue is whether Banks and his associates broke election law to secure a narrow victory for the 2016 Brexit campaign. The commission began its investigation into the Leave.EU campaign and Banks after lawmakers called for a probe into whether “dark money” -- including from Russia -- played a role in the referendum. Banks has acknowledged meeting Russian officials, though has been adamant throughout the process that he’s received no foreign money.
Banks also denied a report in the Observer newspaper that said he may have misled members of Parliament about the staff at his Eldon Insurance and Rock Services companies working on the Leave.EU campaign from their company offices. The arrangement would violate election law because any work carried out before the election should have been declared, according to the newspaper.
In his interview, Banks said the work had been “reported in the right way” and that Eldon employees had been legally transferred to the political work on short-term contracts.
When he appeared before lawmakers in June for questioning on his business interests, Banks accused the panel of “trying to discredit Brexit campaigning.”
The House of Commons hearing was supervised with extra police security because of Banks’s controversial and divisive opinions. “I like to think I’m an evil genius with a white cap that controls the whole of western democracy -- but clearly that’s nonsense,” he told the panel.
Banks was in typically combative mood on Sunday. “You just want to smear me,” Banks said when Marr pushed on the source of funds for the donations. “I think I know my business affairs better than you.”
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