After several months, stretching back to the end of the EU referendum, Arron Banks has finally been referred to the National Crime Agency, the highest enforcement agency in the United Kingdom, over doubts over where the funding for the Brexit campaign came from. His donation totalled nearly £11 Million and this latest revelation comes on top of the questions over the ‘management services’ that his company provided the official Leave campaign, which totalled nearly £12 Million.
Allegations in recent hours suggest that Theresa May, when Home Secretary blocked a request from the security services to investigate Arron Banks. This further mystifies the plot and possibly adds to the case that Theresa May’s refusal to investigate the legality of the EU referendum, is because it would further implicate her. This story breaks on the day after another damaging political event occurred in Westminster yesterday, the Prime Minister suffered another ministerial resignation and in her parting letter said ‘The Government would have blood on its hands.’
There are several accusations levelled at Mr Banks, including that the funding came from the Russian’s, to which there may be some credibility. In reference to the diamond mines that he has part ownership of in South Africa, in an interview with Channel 4 in January 2016, he claimed that they worth ‘quite a lot.’ There’s significant evidence to suggest that that claim is incorrect, again an investigation by Channel 4 revealed that most or all of the mines had been closed down and that workers had not been paid.
Court documents reveal that his former business partner has made serious allegations regarding how we was financing ‘the plug’, saying that its origins were linked to Russia and that a portion of the funding had been diverted, to the Brexit campaign.
Bob Posner, Electoral Commission Director of Political Finance and Regulation & Legal Counsel, said:
“We have reasonable grounds to suspect money given to Better for the Country came from impermissible sources and that Mr Banks and Ms Bilney, the responsible person for Leave.EU, knowingly concealed the true circumstances under which this money was provided. This is significant because at least £2.9m of this money was used to fund referendum spending and donations during the regulated period of the EU referendum.
“Our investigation has unveiled evidence that suggests criminal offences have been committed which fall beyond the remit of the Commission. This is why we have handed our evidence to the NCA to allow them to investigate and take any appropriate law enforcement action. This is now a criminal investigation.
“The financial transactions we have investigated include companies incorporated in Gibraltar and the Isle of Man. These jurisdictions are beyond the reach of the Electoral Commission for the purpose of obtaining information for use in criminal investigations or proceedings.”
The full press release can be found, here.
This statement further bolsters the claim that the Electoral Commission does not have the resources or legal authority to do its job properly. In an age of misinformation, increasing foreign interest in our elections, the United Kingdom needs a regulator fit for its age. The tiny amounts that campaigns and political parties continue to be fined, for breaking British law is something that needs addressing immediately. The lack of willingness from politicians to confront this topical issue is concerning for our democracy, to say the least.
It also brings into question the legality of the result to leave the European Union, if it had been the Remain camp that had broke the law and financed the campaign illegally would there have been the same muted reaction? I doubt it.
It is likely that there are more leaks to come, Arron Banks, Nigel Farage and Theresa May will all have questions to answer, the arrogance of all and their contempt for our democracy is shameful. Legislators should call their chiropractor, for it is time for them to grow a backbone.
22nd of November – Update
A couple of weeks have passed and as predicted more leaks have come to light. A Freedom of Information request by Open Democracy has been declined by the Home Office, excusing themselves from revealing such information on the following grounds.
It would impede the future formulation of government policy
According to the Daily Mail, Theresa May initially blocked the investigation on the grounds that…
“The topic was simply too explosive in the run-up to the referendum,”
As news continues to filter through of the involvement of other actors including Steve Bannon and his role in influencing the EU referendum result, be that in his quest to raise funds or influence the result through other means, they are developments that are concerning.