- Matt Cardy / Stringer
- The UK Electoral Commission is investigating Arron Banks, a major donor to anti-EU campaign group Leave.EU. The commission is looking into whether Banks or his company breached campaign finance laws or acted as an agent for other donors. The investigation comes as British and EU politicians called for an investigation into possible Russian meddling in the Brexit vote.
The UK Electoral Commission has opened an investigation into UKIP donor Arron Banks over his donations during the EU referendum last year.
It is investigating whether Banks or his company, Better for the Country Limited, breached campaign finance rules or acted as an agent for other donors, among other allegations, the commission said in a Wednesday statement.
Banks was a major donor to Leave.EU, an anti-EU campaign group supported by Nigel Farage.
The Electoral Commission, among other roles, regulates political party finances and investigates possible breaches of the rules. When a breach is found, the commission has the power to issue sanctions or seek prosecution.
Bob Posner, the commission’s director of political finance and regulation, said: “Interest in the funding of the EU referendum campaigns remains widespread. Questions over the legitimacy of funding provided to campaigners at the referendum risks causing harm to voters’ confidence.”
But Banks didn’t seem too worried about the Electoral Commission investigation. “Gosh I’m terrified,” he tweeted, in response to the news.
Gosh I'm terrified https://t.co/t46IBFhfpV
— Arron Banks (@Arron_banks) November 1, 2017
Former Leave.EU communications boss Andy Wigmore emailed a statement to BI. It said:
“The Leave.EU campaign was funded by myself, Peter Hargreaves, and the general public. The Guardian allegations of Brexit being funded by the Russians and propogated (sic) by Ben Bradshaw are complete b******s for beginning to end.
“My sole involvement with ‘the Russian’s’ was a boozy 6-hour lunch with the Ambassador where we drank the place dry ( they have some cracking Vodka and Brandy) and then wrote the account of the lunch in my book – ‘The Bad Boys of Brexit.'”
The investigation comes as Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief negotiator, and Labour MP Ben Bradshaw called for an investigation into potential Russian meddling in the Brexit vote.
Leave.EU told BI that it would fully support any inquiry, claiming it was “beyond laughable” that Russia had any sort of involvement in the referendum.
The Electoral Commission already has an ongoing, separate investigation into whether some donations accepted by Leave.EU breached campaign finance policies, and whether the group completed its spending return.