The National Crime Agency has launched a criminal investigation into Arron Banks and a number of other individuals associated with the Leave.EU campaign.
The Electoral Commission has referred Banks, his campaign Leave.EU, its parent organisation Better for the Country, and “other associated companies and individuals” following its investigation into the 2016 campaign, which focused on a reported £2 million loan to Better for the Country from Banks and his group of insurance companies.
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Another £6 million was reportedly loaned by Banks on behalf of Leave.EU, with £2.9 million used on referendum campaign spending and donations to other groups.
The Commission says it has “reasonable grounds” to suspect Banks of a number of potential criminal offences, including, along with other associated people “concealing the true details of these transactions” and not being the “true source” of the donations.
'Knowingly concealed the true circumstances'
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.”
Leave.EU was fined £70,000 by the Electoral Commission in May for exceeding campaign spending limits.
'No evidence of wrongdoing'
In a statement, Banks said was "pleased" to have been referred to the NCA and called the allegations "ludicrous".
He said there was "no evidence of wrongdoing from any of the companies I own" and added: "Isn't it funny that none of the financial contributions made by George Soros to British political campaigns are ever subject to any scrutiny by the Electoral Commission despite his being a foreign national."
Read the full statement below.
"I am pleased that the Electoral Commission has referred me to the National Crime Agency.
"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.
"The Electoral Commission has referred me to the National Crime Agency under intense political pressure from anti-Brexit supporters.
"I am already in court with the Electoral Commission. In witness statements the commission has admitted it got its figures wrong in relation to a previous investigation and it even submitted its final report without taking evidence from us.
"Isn't it funny that none of the financial contributions made by George Soros to British political campaigns are ever subject to any level of scrutiny by the Electoral Commission despite his being a foreign national."