‘Bad Boy of Brexit’ Arron Banks arrives back in UK from Bermuda as the National Crime Agency probes ‘Russia links’ to £8million funding of campaign group Leave.EU
- The Electoral Commission passed on evidence to the National Crime Agency
- Central to the criminal probe is an £8m donation by Arron Banks to Leave.EU
- Banks denies claims he was not the true source of the massive donation
- The NCA is investigating whether the cash came from Banks’ Russian contacts
Brexit financier Arron Banks has flown into Gatwick Airport from Bermuda just days after the National Crime Agency announced he was at the centre of a criminal investigation.
Banks, one of the founders of the Leave.EU organisation, returned to the UK this morning amid claims that he broke electoral law over his £8million donation during the Brexit referendum.
The National Crime Agency launched the investigation after the Electoral Commission said there were reasonable grounds to suspect that Banks was not the ‘true source’ of the £8million donation.
Arron Banks arrived back into Gatwick Airport this morning, pictured, less than 48 hours after it emerged the National Crime Agency – Britain’s FBI – has launched a criminal investigations into donations he made to the Leave.EU campaign ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Banks was questioned by journalists after he arrived at Gatwick’s South Terminal this morning
Banks, pictured this morning, was in Bermuda when the NCA announced the investigation
Central to the investigation is a claim that the money used by pro-Brexit campaigners had been donated by Russian interests looking to undermine the European Union.
Responding to the claims, Banks said he was confident the criminal investigation would ‘put an end to the ludicrous allegations’ against him.
Yesterday, the self-confessed ‘Bad Boy of Brexit’ tweeted a photograph of him in Bermuda under the title ‘Gone Fishing’.
The Electoral Commission also referred Leave.EU, its chief executive, Elizabeth Bilney, and the organisation that ran it, Better for the Country, to the NCA after carrying out a review.
Bob Posner, the Commission’s director of political finance, 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 £2.9 million of this money was used to fund referendum spending and donations during the regulated period of the EU referendum.’
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Mr Banks said the Commission had referred him to the NCA under ‘intense political pressure’ from anti-Brexit supporters.
He said: ‘I am confident that a full and frank investigation will finally put an end to the ludicrous allegations levelled against me and my colleagues.
‘There is no evidence of any wrongdoing from the companies I own. I am a UK taxpayer and I have never received any foreign donations. The Electoral Commission has produced no evidence to the contrary.’
Yesterday, Banks tweeted a photograph from Bermuda claiming he had ‘gone fishing’
The National Crime Agency are investigating the source of an £8m donation by Banks to the Leave.EU campaign ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum amid allegations the cash may have come from some of his contacts in Russia
Yesterday, it was alleged Theresa May as Home Secretary blocked an investigation by the security services in 2016 into Banks over his links to prominent Russians
Ms Bilney also accused the Commission of having a ‘biased approach’ in its investigations and said she was confident she would be ‘exonerated’.
She told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: ‘I hope that the matter will be shortly concluded to demonstrate that no crimes have been committed.’
‘They are looking at it how they want to through their own biased lens,’ she added.
Mr Banks was criticised by the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee earlier this year for seeming to ‘want to hide the extent of his contacts with Russia’.
But Ms Bilney dismissed suggestions that some of the money may have come from the Federation.
‘I run the group of companies where the money was from and we don’t have any transactions that are from Russia,’ she said.
‘I completely comfortable that we have done everything above board.’
The Electoral Commission’s review of referendum finances focused on £2 million reported to have been loaned to Better for the Country by Mr Banks and his insurance companies and a £6 million donation he made alone.
It said that, as well as having reasonable grounds to suspect he was not the true source of the cash, loans involved a company, Rock Holdings, based on the Isle of Man, which was impermissible under the rules.
The watchdog said it suspected Mr Banks, Ms Bilney and others involved in Better for the Country and Leave.EU concealed the true details of the financial transactions.
It believes a number of criminal offences may have been committed.
The NCA said its investigation relates to suspected electoral law offences.
A spokesman added: ‘While electoral law offences would not routinely fall within the NCA’s remit, the nature of the necessary inquiries and the potential for offences to have been committed other than under electoral law lead us to consider an NCA investigation appropriate in this instance.’
The criminal investigation has also placed a focus on Theresa May, who as Home Secretary in the lead up to the 2016 Brexit vote allegedly blocked the security services investigating Banks over ‘political sensitivities’.
Earlier, a Number 10 spokeswoman refused to comment on the NCA probe.
She said: ‘I can’t comment on an ongoing investigation,’ the spokeswoman said.
When asked about allegations of possible Russian influence on the vote, she said: ‘There is no evidence to suggest that is the case.’
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