Arron Banks: It seems he and Leave.EU are still under investigation, no matter what that organisation claims.
Eurosceptic referendum campaign organisation Leave.EU has been trumpeting a claim that the Met police has dropped criminal investigations into its behaviour in the run-up to the 2016 vote.
It seems the claim may have been premature.
While the organisation embarked on a publicity campaign that included showering abuse on its detractors – aided and abetted by its friends in the mainstream media, it seems there was at least one dissenting voice.
It belongs to the National Crime Agency – the organisation running the investigation into Leave.EU.
“This is a live investigation, and we are unable to discuss any operational detail, however we are progressing the investigation as expeditiously as possible and will report the outcome of the investigation at the earliest opportunity, once all matters have been thoroughly investigated.”
So there you have it.
It seems all those enthusiastic ejaculations by the Leave.EU camp have been a little premature.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Shaked, not stirred: One satirical site had the headline ‘Nigel Farage dies of milkshake wounds’ – but that seems more likely to happen to his tailor. Those of you who are sniggering at the way this appears should get your dirty minds out of the gutter.
Yes, Nigel Farage was hit with a milkshake, while he was on the campaign trail.
The alleged perpetrator has been charged with a criminal offence, but that’s not the big deal here.
More damaging than the splat of shake on suit is the fact that people are equating Mr Farage and his Brexit Party with far-right-wingers like Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin and Stephen ‘Tommy Robinson’ Yaxley Lennon.
The mood is clear from the memes that are appearing, like this one:
Add that to the latest satirical hit from Captain Ska…
But of course the above is a sideshow in comparison with the trouble the could arise from an electoral commission investigation into the way the Brexit Party – in fact a commercial company – raises funds.
Apparently donations of less than £500 to the firm’s PayPal account are permissible, no matter whether they came from a foreign organisation bent on undermining the UK’s democracy or not. But such organisations are not permitted to provide larger amounts. That’s a relief, eh?
And the European Union has announced that it is to investigate Mr Farage for failing to declare enormous donations from Brexiteer Arron Banks.
The way Mr Farage handles money has itself given rise to satirical comments – from unlikely sources:
But with the election on Thursday, many voters have already made up their minds. Is it too late to stop the UK’s latest lurch towards far-right insanity?
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
You can’t trust Theresa May: Whether she tells us anything or not, it seems she is always trying to deceive.
The Tories are tying themselves in knots over Brexit.
Theresa May is currently set to return to the EU over the weekend in a desperate bid to save a withdrawal agreement that stands in tatters after the DUP savaged its plan for the Northern Ireland border and Spain attacked it over Gibraltar. MPs queued up to voice their opposition to it during a Parliamentary debate demonstrating that the government cannot get the amount of support it needs.
And now it seems Mrs May blocked an investigation into electoral crimes by Leave.EU, one of the main campaign organisations that persuaded the public to support Brexit – and is covering up the reasons for it.
Investigative website openDemocracy submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office, seeking clarification on reports that Mrs May blocked an investigation into Brexit bankroller Arron Banks in the run-up to the 2016 referendum after the Home Office refused to reveal information about the controversial Leave.EU and UKIP donor.
Mr Banks donated £8.4 million to Leave campaigns – the single biggest donation in British political history. But he is facing a criminal investigation over concerns that he was not the “true source” of the money. Questions have also been raised about his links to Russia but he denies any wrongdoing. The National Crime Agency is said to be investigating.
But the Home Office refused to either confirm or deny whether it holds any material from 2016 about Leave.EU and Banks. The department said that doing so “would impede the future formulation of government policy”.
openDemocracy‘s article suggests that the Home Office’s response is an attempt to hide behind the form of language usually used to avoid commenting on intelligence matters – which is inappropriate in this instance.
The suggestion is that the government is trying to protect Mrs May by hiding whatever she did, back in 2016. But by saying it “would impede the future formulation of government policy”, officials have only drawn attention to a matter that has nothing to do with that subject.
The longer Mrs May and her cronies try to hide her involvement in this scandal, the worse it will be for her.
Meanwhile, the official pro-Brexit campaign group, Vote Leave, has lost a judicial review aimed at trying to get an Electoral Commission ruling that it breached spending limits thrown out.
The organisation had tried to challenge a ruling that it had exceeded the £7 million limit by channelling funds through another campaign group BeLeave. But the High Court has thrown out its case.
So not only is Mrs May accused of blocking an investigation into one of the major players in the Brexit vote; but she is also desperately defending the result of that vote, even though it may be illegitimate.
And in any case, it seems her plan for Brexit is ruined.
Why is she persisting with this charade? Are worse revelations yet to be revealed?
Has the BBC taken its claim to impartially serve up both sides of news stories a few steps too far?
That’s how it seems in the case of Arron Banks, who is apparently being investigated by the National Crime Agency after the Electoral Commission found that his campaign group in the EU referendum – Leave.EU – had broken electoral law.
After it was announced that the NCA is investigating, the BBC decided to invite him onto The Andrew Marr Show to discuss the matter. The show was to be broadcast live at 9am today (Sunday, November 4). Here’s the Corporation’s statement about it:
“There is strong public interest in an interview with Arron Banks about allegations of funding irregularities in relation to Leave.EU and the 2016 EU Referendum. The Electoral Commission has laid out concerns about this in public and it is legitimate and editorially justified for Andrew Marr to question Mr Banks robustly about them, which he will do on Sunday morning.”
No it isn’t. In fact, it may pervert the course of justice.
We already know Leave.EU is guilty of breaking electoral law – that’s what the Electoral Commission found. Now it has passed the matter on to the NCA, which will investigate the possibility that serious criminal offences were committed.
Nobody from the NCA or the Electoral Commission has been invited to put forward what they know, so this is basically giving Mr Banks an opportunity to influence the nation’s thinking on the matter. This could be disastrous for justice if a jury is ever asked to decide on his innocence or guilt.
People have picked up on these facts. For instance:
This is the substantive point – presenting evidence that might go before a criminal court may prejudice the case.
I genuinely cannot compose a coherent sentence that conveys my feelings about this. Shall we now expect all people investigated of crimes to be given airtime on #marr to put forward their side of the story? @BBC is reaching new lows. I certainly won't be tuning in. https://t.co/XKsQDOUwOc
Trouble is, I think we need to watch, just to check whether what’s broadcast is reasonable. This member of the public thinks it won’t be:
Unfortunately @AndrewMarr9 is no longer a “robust” interviewer. He merely gives his interviewees a platform to air their opinions and does little to challenge them with evidence (that he doesn’t have anyway). Leave it to the NCA.
Again, good points. The BBC is acting hypocritically as it is affording Mr Banks a courtesy never offered to other people in the public eye, whose behaviour has been the focus of legal interest in the past. And it is the job of all reporters to ensure that they do not prejudice the outcome of criminal inquiries and court cases when reporting them.
Here’s the email to the BBC sent by myself and @CarolineLucas explaining why they should reverse their decision to give a platform to Arron Banks
THE FACTS: 1. The man that bankrolled Brexit is being investigated by the NCA. 2. The Vote Leave campaign committed electoral crimes on an unimaginable scale. 3. 40% of the Leave budget was spent on a data company banned by Canada & UK. 5. Brexit was won by criminal activity.
It closed down the complaints page on its website.
This is not the action of a responsible organisation.
It gets worse than that, though – information has been leaked to suggest Theresa May quashed an investigation into Mr Banks’s dealings, years ago, quoting “political sensitivity” (which is the reason the Met Police has given for failing to do anything about the matter over the last several months).
“A Labour MP has asked Theresa May whether she or any other minister had ever declined a request from the security services to conduct an investigation into the controversial Leave.EU campaign donor Arron Banks.
“Ben Bradshaw wrote to the prime minister a day after it was announced that a criminal investigation into Banks had begun, amid repeated allegations that May had blocked an investigation in 2016, when she was home secretary.
“Downing Street would not comment on Bradshaw’s suggestion that an investigation was blocked, although it is understood the claim is denied. A No 10 spokesman said: “We would never confirm or deny the detail of any conversation with security services on any topic.”
“The Daily Mail reported on Thursday that May declined a request by one of the security services to investigate Banks in 2016, repeating a claim made by Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, at his party conference in September.
“At the time Watson asked: “Did [May] ask the security services to investigate? Or did she stop them doing so? There is a suggestion that in the run-up to the referendum the prime minister – in her capacity at the time as home secretary – declined at least one application from the security services to mount a full investigation into Mr Banks and others suspected of Russian influence. We need to know if that is true.””
Again, the social media have been having a field day:
So two and a half years ago Theresa May, as Home Secretary, quashed an investigation into Arron Banks out of 'political sensitivity'. Is it just me or is this dodgy as fuck?
— Tony G #PeacefulRevolutionRequired🇬🇧😻🇪🇺#FBPE (@NoIAmTonyGreen) November 2, 2018
OMG!! 😮😮😮 The then Home Secretary Theresa May now PM is being accused of blocking MI5 investigation as it’s confirmed Police will now probe ‘Brexit Bad Boy’ Arron Banks as BBC break with justice protocol and invite him onto Marr!!!! You what?!? pic.twitter.com/pXKl1gdApi
And there is a critically serious issue at the heart of this: Alleged interference in UK politics by a foreign power – Russia – with the aid of individuals like Mr Banks and, it seems, Mrs May.
The fact that lawbreaking has happened, the spectre of foreign interference, and the possibility of corruption at the highest level of government – all focused on the UK’s departure from the European Union – mean that the legitimacy of Brexit has been called into question.
Ardent ‘Leave’ voters will be infuriated at Professor Brian Cox’s suggestion…
If it is true that elements of the leave campaign were funded by significant amounts of foreign money, the result cannot and will never be accepted as legitimate. Government and / or Parliament must pause the process until the results of this criminal inquiry are known. https://t.co/2os2PJTL6Z
… but in legal terms – in a nation run by people who accept the rule of law – it is the correct course of action.
This is potentially a huge issue for Theresa May. If the #Mueller investigation confirms that there was Russian interference with US & UK elections and LeaveEU were involved, her past actions to ignore and the need for investigation would deem her unfit for office https://t.co/kD1U9Nq7ne
As I type these words, there is much celebration on the social media at the news that Arron Banks and Leave.EU have been referred to the National Crime Agency for investigation over suspected offences related to the EU referendum of 2016.
Here‘s the latest development, as reported by BBC News:
“The National Crime Agency is investigating Arron Banks and his Leave.EU campaign for alleged offences committed at the 2016 EU referendum.
“Mr Banks and another senior campaign figure, Liz Bilney, were referred to the agency by the Electoral Commission.
“The watchdog said it suspected money given to the campaign came “from impermissible sources”.
“Mr Banks has consistently denied any wrongdoing in connection to the referendum campaign.
“The Electoral Commission investigation focused on £2m reported to have been loaned to Better for the Country, which ran Leave.EU, by Mr Banks and his group of insurance companies and a further £6m reported to have been given to the organisation, on behalf of Leave.EU, by Arron Banks alone.
“Of this, £2.9m was used to fund referendum spending on behalf of Leave.EU and donations to other campaign groups during the EU referendum, the Electoral Commission said.”
There is no comment from the National Crime Agency but the reaction on the social media has been ecstatic:
Arron Banks and Leave EU have been referred to the National Crime Agency over "multiple suspected offences" regarding the EU referendum. A huge victory for Carole Cadwalladr and investigate journalism.
Carole Cadwalladr, whose investigative journalism managed to take the matter this far, had the following to say:
It is sheer MADNESS that it has taken this long to be referred to the NCA, that the government has refused to answer parliament's questions about the investigation…but FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY pic.twitter.com/jrkcmOMQiG
I have asked her whether she seriously believes an investigation will take place and will publish her response.
Let’s remind ourselves of what happened when Leave.EU was referred to the Metropolitan Police. This is from October 11:
“The Metropolitan Police has stalled the launch of any criminal investigation into three pro-Brexit campaigns – citing “political sensitivities”.
“Despite being handed their first dossier of evidence of potential crimes committed by pro-Leave groups over five months ago, the police force has made no progress nor logged a formal case into the activities of either Vote Leave, fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, or Leave.EU, the pro-Brexit campaign bankrolled by Arron Banks.
“In May and July this year, the UK Electoral Commission reported that multiple breaches of electoral law, false declarations and covert campaign over-spending had taken place by pro-Leave groups during the 2016 EU referendum.
“The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) was then expected to investigate whether key individuals, including Leave.EU’s campaign chief, Liz Bilney; Vote Leave’s board official, David Halsall; and the founder of BeLeave, Darren Grimes, had committed related criminal offences.
“The Met revealed it has yet to start any formal investigation, and has remained effectively stalled for months in “assessing evidence”.
“Pushed on why there has been no progress, or no formal case logged, a Scotland Yard spokesman admitted there were issues and “political sensitivities” that had to be taken into account. The Yard spokesman later added that the political issues related to “any allegation or referral relating to an election, and much else besides.””
Arron Banks: He can do anything he wants because he knows his pals in Parliament have got his back.
I’ll tell you why: Because the establishment that allowed the crimes to be committed is so unutterably corrupt that it is quite happy to let the criminals off.
We know the names of everybody involved. We know they broke electoral law in order to corruptly influence voters in the EU referendum.
We also know that major players in the offending campaign groups are now government ministers who will do everything in their power to prevent the logical actions from being taken.
Those logical actions?
The EU referendum should be declared null and void. It was corruptly influenced and the result is entirely discredited.
The named individuals who conspired to commit the electoral offences should be arrested on suspicion of having committed the most serious criminal offence under which the offence could be listed, and imprisoned without bail (in case they abscond). They committed fraud in an attempt to change our way of life – for the worse, in most cases. Why are they not in prison already?
All those who have obstructed attempts to get justice should also be arrested and imprisoned without bail.
But it isn’t going to happen – not because there isn’t a huge amount of will in its favour (there is) but because the tiny few who actually have the legal ability to take action are complicit in the crime and could not care less that the law has been broken.
And they reckon we can’t do anything about it.
You see, there are millions of people who voted ‘Leave’ because they genuinely want the UK to leave the European Union and don’t care about the inevitable and devastating consequences.
Those millions will not support any act that might jeopardise our departure from the EU – and they don’t care about the fact that the law has been broken.
The result will be equivalent to stealing a fortune from every working family in the UK, but that hasn’t happened yet so they don’t care.
And that’s why they won’t support any action to bring the criminals to justice.
This means the corrupt legislators in Parliament are sitting pretty on seats they’re not likely to lose in any election – at least until after Brexit happens – because enough of the electorate don’t care that they’re voting for criminals.
And the corrupt campaigners won’t be punished because the corrupt legislators won’t change the law to make this possible.
Once Brexit has happened, of course, the attitude of the public may change, as the impact of this political calamity finally makes itself fully felt.
But by then, it will be too late because there will be no going back.
So what do you do about it?
Well, one possibility might be the obvious:
Bitch about it. Bitch like hell. Complain about what has happened – and name the people involved in it. Call them into question every time they appear in public, on TV, in the papers, on the social media – anywhere. Create campaigns. Make memes and infographics. Demand justice.
If enough people do it, you won’t be ignored.
Or you could just stay quiet, roll over and let these creeps and criminals carry on doing to you what they’ve been doing for the last two years. Your choice.
On Wednesday, Matthew Elliott, the CEO of Vote Leave, the campaign headed by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, both now government ministers, took the extraordinary step of leaking the interim report of an Electoral Commission investigation which is still under way.
This found the campaign guilty of breaking electoral rules and law. Laws which are the bedrock of our entire electoral system.
The timing of the release of this – after midnight, on the night of a World Cup match – an apparent attempt to influence the reporting of an investigation that hasn’t yet concluded raises many questions.
But what Elliott couldn’t spin was this: according to his own account of the report, Vote Leave, the official referendum campaign that was partly funded with taxpayers’ money, looks to have committed what may be one of the biggest incidents of electoral fraud in Britain in more than a century.
Official investigations under way so far include: overspending by Vote Leave, overspending by Leave.EU, coordination between Vote Leave and BeLeave, the source of at least £12m in donations in gifts and loans by Arron Banks’s company to Leave.EU, the use of data by all campaigns including the role of Cambridge Analytica, its Canadian affiliate, AIQ and Banks’s Eldon insurance company. In addition, there are also pressing and urgent questions about – but no official investigation into – the source of a donation made to the DUP.
And there is the extraordinary and shocking evidence that the Observer has recently unearthed about Banks’s connections to Russia.
Two weeks ago, the Electoral Commission announced that “urgent action”needed to be taken, that it couldn’t regulate online campaigning, that radical new laws were desperately needed. It’s a huge step forward in terms of safeguarding future elections. But we don’t have these new laws yet. We have the old ones. A feeble legislative framework with almost no powers to compel evidence and the capacity to impose only tiny fines.
Because what the Electoral Commission didn’t say is that the powers that it now admits are inadequate are the same ones it is using to investigate alleged Vote Leave spending and other offences by other campaigns. Multiple offences. Because the investigation into Vote Leave is just one of a number of ongoing inquiries into potential crimes.
And if evidence of wrongdoing is uncovered, it will all be too late. By the time any of these investigations is referred to the police, who then have to conduct their own inquiries before deciding whether to bring charges, Britain will have exited the EU.
What has become clear in the nearly two years that I’ve been reporting on this story is that the law will not save us. The laws didn’t work. The regulators couldn’t regulate. The system – built on self-regulation and self-policing – failed. It relied upon goodwill and trust and in the face of a one-off, bitterly divisive issue, that goodwill and trust dissolved. We went into the referendum with the equivalent of Dad’s Army and a couple of vintage rifles to protect us from a hostile new world of data manipulation, black-box platforms and advanced cyber-warfare techniques harnessed by hostile foreign powers.
But this isn’t just a legal or a regulatory failure. It’s a political failure. It’s on the government. It’s on an opposition that is failing to hold the government to account.
Hundreds of thousands of people care. All over social media, people – who have been vocal in support of this investigation – care. Backbench politicians care. This news organisation that has put editorial and legal resources into this story over many, many months, cares. Ordinary voters who feel deceived care.
We care. We just have no idea what to do about it.
“More evidence that the Kippers really do hate and despise the NHS,” writes Beastrabban, linking to an article by anti-fascist website Hope Not Hate about comments Arron Banks made to the Financial Times. The article begins:
“One of UKIPs top funders has called for a major overhaul of the “Luddite” NHS and increased involvement of the private sector in the health service.
“Arron Banks, who recently donated £1m to the xenophobic party told The Financial Times: ‘The NHS is so Luddite because everyone believes it’s free, well it isn’t free, it comes at a massive cost, it’s unreconstructed, it’s almost communist in the way it does things’.”
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