Banks Defiant as Remainer-dominated Commission Refers Leave.EU to Crime Agency

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LIAM DEACON

A number of Labour MPs are calling for Brexit to be immediately halted after the Electoral Commission referred Brexit campaign donor Arron Banks to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The watchdog said it suspected Mr Banks was not the “true source” of loans to the Leave.EU campaign and the money had come “from impermissible sources”.

Mr Banks denies all the claims and says the Electoral Commission is biased against Brexit and does not understand the structure of his finances and business.

“The [Electoral Commission] haven’t spoken to us or communicated in [four] months nor have they put any allegations for us to answer,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Journalists should be asking why they haven’t followed their own due process! It’s no wonder their CEO has been sacked.”

Leave.EU head of communications Andy Wigmore added that the referral was “completely to be expected”, and that the campaign was pleased a formal investigation would “finally bring a head to all these crazy allegations made about us. We’re not worried.”

Elsewhere, Mr Wigmore suggested Leave.EU had a “plethora of wonderful stuff to give to the [NCA]” which would shed light on what the motives of the campagin’s detractors — including senior MPs — “actually were”.

The NCA, the UK’s equivalent of the FBI, has only just initiated their investigation into the claims, but anti-Brexit MPs have already begun calling for Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) to be halted.

Helen Hayes, the Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, commented: “Criminal investigation into the use of overseas funds by the Leave campaign. Govt cannot [and] must not continue blindly towards the constitutional &[and] economic precipice of Brexit while such serious allegations of the undermining of our democracy remain.”

David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, added: “We already know electoral law was broken. Now Aaron [sic] Banks is under investigation because Leave.EU stands accused of spending foreign money.

“Brexit must be put on hold until we know the extent of these crimes against our democracy.”

Leave.EU’s official statement responding to the allegations asserted Banks was “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,” he added.

Leave.EU’s chief executive Liz Bilney, who is also under investigation, said all of the money had come from Mr Banks and he was the “ultimate beneficial owner” of the companies which loaned it.

As a UK domiciled taxpayer Mr Banks was “completely permissible to donate money to campaigns as he sees fit,” she told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One programme.

She denied claims the money had come from Russian sources, saying: “I run the group of companies where the money was from and we don’t have any transactions that are from Russia.”

And she said the Electoral Commission had “failed to understand the nature of the loan agreements” and was seeing them through “their own biased lens.”

“I am confident that all the matters will be completely resolved and I will be exonerated and so will Arron and everybody else involved,” she added.

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