Self-styled “Bad Boy of Brexit” Arron Banks is a Bristol based businessman and the co-founder of Leave.EU, the unofficial Brexit Leave campaign. His donations of some £8 million to various Leave campaigns possibly count as the largest donation to a political cause in British history.
A Channel 4 investigation into Arron Banks, his business interests and connections with Russia are interesting to say the least. With many of the unanswered questions under active investigation in the UK and South Africa where it is alleged Banks may have bribed a government official. Other allegations around possible Russian funding for his Brexit negotiations, made worse by his consistent failure to disclose meetings with a Russian ambassador who allegedly offered lucrative diamond mine contracts. Banks denies any Russian involvement and in typical robust fashions welcomes his chance to clear his name when the NCA investigation completes its course.
Arron Banks asked Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica to help raise funds for Leave.EU
18 November 2018 – New email evidence shows Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore or Leave.EU asked Alt-right firebrand Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica to help procure US funding to support their EU referendum campaign. Foreign financing of UK elections is illegal under electoral law.
In an email on October 24, 2015 to his associate Andy Wigmore, on which Bannon was copied, Banks said he would like Cambridge Analytica to “come up with a strategy for fund raising in the States and engaging companies and special interest groups that might be affected by TTIP”. Cambridge Analytica closed this year after the Observer revealed it had harvested data on millions of Facebook users and engaged in “black ops” political campaigns around the world. Banks told MPs in June that he had “initial discussions” with Cambridge Analytica but didn’t hire it “or sign a contract”.
Damian Collins, chair of the parliamentary committee investigating disinformation and fake news, said: “The emails suggest that the role of Bannon and [US Hedge Fund Billionaire Robert] Mercer is far deeper and more complex than we realised. There’s a big question about whether Mercer’s money was used in the Brexit campaign and it absolutely underscores why Britain needs a proper Mueller-style investigation… …There are direct links between the political movements behind Brexit and Trump. We’ve got to recognise the bigger picture here. This is being co-ordinated across national borders by very wealthy people in a way we really haven’t seen before”.
So, are we looking at US dark money rather than Russian?
Arron Banks accused of diamond smuggling
22 December 2018 – Arron Banks is facing questions from anti-corruption campaigners over a valuable uncut diamond from South Africa that he may have smuggled out of the country, evading thousands of pounds in taxes and flouting controls on the international movement of diamonds set up to prevent the sale of “conflict gems”. The allegations, made by Forensics for Justice, are based on an email from Banks to a business partner, which the organisation says it collected from the recipient. It forms part of a dossier it compiled this year on Banks’s business dealings in South Africa and Lesotho in which Banks is accused of Bribing a South African government official. Source: The Guardian
Electoral Commission refers Arron Banks to the National Crime Agency
Key points from the Electoral Commissions report:
- Investigation into payments made to Better for the Country Limited (BFTC) and Leave.EU Group Limited (Leave.EU)
- The Commission has reasonable grounds to suspect a number of criminal offences
- The Electoral Commission has reasonable grounds to suspect Arron Banks was not the true source of the £8m reported as loans
- The parties to the financial transactions that led to the £8m being paid into BFTC’s bank account included a non-qualifying or impermissible company, Rock Holding Limited, which was incorporated in the Isle of Man
- Leave.EU, Elizabeth Bilney (the responsible person for Leave.EU), BFTC, Mr Banks, and possibly others, concealed the true details of these financial transactions and also did so by knowingly making statutory returns/reports which were incomplete and inaccurate, or false
- Various criminal offences may have been committed
Leave.EU and Arron Banks insurance firm face £135,000 in fines for misuse of personal data
The fines follow the Information Commissioner’s investigation into the misuse of personal data by political campaigns. Key points from their report to Parliament dated 6 Nov 2018:
- More than a million emails sent to Leave.EU subscribers contained marketing for the Eldon Insurance firm’s GoSkippy services
- The report highlights what it calls the close relationship between Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance, both facing fines of £60,000 for emails which breached data laws.
- Over a million emails between February and July 2017 had been sent to Leave.EU subscribers, including marketing information about GoSkippy, without their consent.
- A £15,000 fine was also imposed for a separate “serious” breach after a Leave.EU newsletter was sent to more than 319,000 email addresses on Eldon’s customer database.
- A final decision is still to be reached on an alleged breach relating to the company’s overall handling of personal data.
The commission also said it was investigating how Vote Leave delivered electronic marketing communications and whether its actions were a breach of privacy rules. “We do have cause for concern and we will be reporting on this imminently.”
Arron Banks under investigation by the NCA
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