Arron Banks interview: Brexit donor fuels confusion over criminal investigation amid anger after BBC appearance
Businessman dismisses allegations despite police investigation into claims 'multiple criminal offences' may have been committed
Arron Banks has fuelled confusion over the source of a huge Brexit campaign donation that is the subject of a police investigation following suspicions of “multiple” criminal offences having been committed.
In an interview with the BBC that prompted an angry backlash about the broadcaster’s decision to give Mr Banks a platform, the businessman insisted that £8m in loans and donations to the Leave.EU campaign had come from a UK-based company he owns.
His intervention follows an announcement that the National Crime Agency has opened a criminal investigation into Mr Banks and Leave.EU’s funding after being passed the findings of an Electoral Commission inquiry.
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The watchdog concluded there were reasonable grounds to suspect Mr Banks was “not the true source” of the Leave.EU donation and said it believed multiple crimes could have been committed.
The Ukip donor has previously admitted holding multiple meetings with Russian officials in the run-up to the 2016 referendum.
But speaking to The Andrew Marr Show, he insisted the money had come from one of his insurance companies, Rock Services, and dismissed speculation about his links to Russia.
He said: “There was no Russian money and no interference of any type. I just want to be absolutely clear about that.
“The money came from Rock Services and went to Leave.EU. That’s a UK-based company that had the cash to donate it.”
Mr Banks said the money was generated by insurance profits from Rock Services, which he called a “sizeable business” that insures nearly half a million customers a year and turns over £250m of premiums.
In June, however, Mr Banks told MPs on the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee that Rock Services was “just a service company” and “just delivers the cash”. He said the “actual loan came from another one of my companies”.
Asked repeatedly by Mr Marr what the other company was, the businessman insisted the money had come only from Rock Services.
He rejected the Electoral Commission’s suggestion that some of the money could have come from Isle of Man-based company Rock Holdings, which owns Rock Services. This would be potentially illegal because, under UK law, campaign donations can only be made by firms registered in the UK.
Mr Banks said the probe into Leave.EU’s funding was “politically motivated” and came after pressure from “a group of vicious Labour MPs who have grouped together with The Guardian and the Financial Times to try to undermine Brexit”.
The BBC’s decision to host Mr Banks on the show prompted outrage from other political figures.
In a typically aggressive performance, the Brexiteer lashed out at DCMS committee chairman Damian Collins, who has been highly critical of him.
Asked why he had written to Mr Collins’ constituents in Folkestone and Hythe calling the MP a “snake in the grass”, Mr Banks replied: “Well, he is.”
Claims have been made that Mr Banks misled Mr Collins’ committee in relation to whether staff at another of his insurance companies had worked on the Leave.EU campaign.
According to The Observer, leaked emails suggest employees of Eldon Insurance worked on the campaign without this being declared as official spending.
Mr Collins suggested the emails appeared to “flatly contradict” what Mr Banks had told his committee in June.
Asked about the matter, Mr Banks told Andrew Marr: “That was reported to the Electoral Commission. People that did work from Eldon were transferred over on short-term contracts legally and it was reported through the Electoral Commission in the right way.”
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