Arron Banks, the businessman who funded the campaign for the UK to leave the EU in 2016, has refuted allegations Russia funded Brexit.
The statement came after the UK’s Electoral Commission announced on Wednesday it had opened an inquiry into whether Banks had “committed offences in relation to donations and/or loans made to campaigners.”
The probe will also look into the origin of the funds used in the Leave campaign, with the suggestion that some funds may have originated from Moscow. According to British law, anyone donating over £500 to a campaign is obliged to reveal the original source of the money. Only UK-registered companies, trade unions and individuals registered to vote in the UK are entitled to contribute to electoral campaigns.
Aaron Banks swiftly dismissed claims of Leave campaign links to Russia as “…complete bollocks from beginning to end,” Reuters reports. The former communications director of the Leave campaign, argues such accusations stem from the “Remain establishment.”
There is little doubt as to the ability of Banks as a communications manager. Banks championed the emphasis on immigration that won the Leave campaign, targeting specifically working-class voters. In an interview with the Guardian in the summer of 2016 – after the triumphant referendum – he explained that the party conducted polls, which suggested that some issues – education, schools, health – could be seen as proxies for immigration. “It was the number one issue by a country mile,” Banks said.
However, Aaron Banks also claimed to be a major donor to the campaign. In an interview with the Sunday Times in July 2016, he said he contributed £6,5 million of his own money. Where the money came from is not clear. There are no records of in cash contributions to that amount, except a loan to the campaign.
The first allegations of ties between Aaron Banks and Russia were made by the Atlantic Council think tank in February 2017. Banks threatened to sue. He did not.
The director of political finance and regulation and legal counsel at the Electoral Commission, Bob Posner, told Reuters that “interest in the funding of the EU referendum campaigns remains widespread” and “questions over the legitimacy of funding provided to campaigners at the referendum risks causing harm to voters’ confidence.”