Economy

‘Discrepancy’ in account of Leave campaign funding, says senior MP

‘Discrepancy’ in account of Leave campaign funding, says senior MP

British millionaire and political donor Arron Banks has insisted there was "no Russian money" in the donations received by his controversial campaigns to leave the EU.

Mr Banks claimed the investigation triggered by the Electoral Commission was part of a campaign to "smear" him and other leading Brexit campaigners in a bid to stop the United Kingdom leaving the EU.

In a series of TV interviews on Sunday, the businessman attacked what he called a witch hunt.

He said: "We insure half a million people".

"Members of Parliament have immediately jumped on this and said we have to pause Brexit... this is part of the Remoaners looking for excuses to extend Article 50", he said.

Banks added that the money came from his United Kingdom businesses.

The Electoral Commission says it suspects the money came from Rock Holdings, the parent company of Rock Services, which is registered in the Isle of Man and so "could not lawfully make any donation or be a party to any loan to Leave.EU".

This would have made it an impermissible source of money under United Kingdom electoral law.

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Responding to the Sky interviewer's claim that the Electoral Commission is "an independent, democratic body" - in fact it is wholly appointed - Banks responded: "You say it's an independent Commission..."

"I want this to be done as quickly as possible", he said.

Mr Banks also suggested he had changed his mind on Brexit, telling Marr: The corruption I have seen in British politics, the sewer that exists and the disgraceful behaviour of the government over what they are doing with Brexit and how they are selling out, means that if I had my time again I think we would have been better to probably Remain and not unleash these demons.

According to Andy Wigmore, a close associate of Banks, access to the accounts in question have been released to the BBC ahead of today's show, and Banks is expected to refer to a legal opinion to demonstrate that the financial dealings in question were legitimate.

"It is a discrepancy because what he told us was that Rock Services really just provides services to other companies that he owns - provides cash, makes payments".

We also speak to the MP Ian Lucas, who's on the digital, culture, media and sport committee - and ask him whether he was any the wiser as to where the pro-Brexit campaign money came from.

Pressed on how Rock Services could generate the £8m when it is listed as a non-trading company, Banks said the cash came from the insurance business of Rock Services and that all Leave funds were generated by UK-listed companies.

Mr Banks lashed out again at the Electoral Commission, accusing it of being full of his political opponents, as well as elements of the media who opposed Brexit.