Pro-Brexit Groups and Arron Banks Probed by U.K. Crime Agency
(Bloomberg) -- Donations made by pro-Brexit groups including Arron Banks’s Leave.EU will be investigated by police after the Electoral Commission said they may have "knowingly concealed" the true source of 8 million pounds ($10.3 million) of funds to the campaign.
The Electoral Commission said it believed criminal offenses had been committed after uncovering details that an Isle of Man-incorporated company was involved in the loans. Leave.EU, one of the main campaigning groups during the 2016 referendum, had said that Banks was the source of the funds.
The National Crime Agency said in an emailed statement Thursday that the potential crimes could go beyond electoral law offenses. The Electoral Commission investigated 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.
At stake is whether Banks and his associates broke election law to secure a narrow victory for the Brexit campaign. There is a political movement that has been pushing for a second referendum and any evidence of meddling could play a role in whether it gathers momentum.
Banks said in a statement that he has never received any foreign donations.
“I am confident that a full and frank investigation will finally put an end to the ludicrous allegations leveled against me and my colleagues,” Banks said.
Appearing before lawmakers in June to be asked about his business interests, Banks accused the panel questioning him of “trying to discredit Brexit campaigning.”
The hearing in the House of Commons in London was supervised with extra police security because of Banks’ 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 on June 12.
Responding to the decision to refer Banks to police, Liberal Democrat lawmaker, Tom Brake, who speaks for his party on Brexit said “people have known for a long time that the Brexiter ranks were filled with dodgy demagogues, today’s news will be little surprise.”
Brake is among lawmakers calling for a fresh vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal. “Brexit will cause great damage to this country and it cannot happen on the back of a Leave campaign littered with lies, deceit and allegations of much worse,” he said.
In its findings, the Electoral Commission said:
- Funding provided in late 2015 and early 2016 was diverted to two main groups Leave.EU and Better for the Country Limited
- Isle of Man-registered Rock Holdings was a party to the loans. Leave.EU had said that no foreign entity had provided funds to Banks, BTFC or Leave.EU
- Banks is a majority shareholder of Rock Holdings
- Under U.K. election law, only U.K.-based companies and people can fund campaigns
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.