National Crime Agency launches investigation into Arron Banks over 'electoral law offences'

National Crime Agency launches investigation into Arron Banks over 'electoral law offences'

The UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) is investigating Brexit's biggest funder Arron Banks over alleged offences committed during the European Union referendum campaign, following a referral by the electoral watchdog.

The commission said it found "reasonable grounds to suspect a number of criminal offences" were committed in relation to the payments, including the involvement of an "impermissible company" and deliberate concealment of financial transactions.

'The Electoral Commission has referred me to the National Crime Agency under intense political pressure from anti-Brexit supporters.

Leave.EU's chief executive Liz Bilney said all of the money had come from Mr Banks and he was the "ultimate beneficial owner" of the companies that had loaned it.

Banks - the millionaire businessman who funded UKIP during Nigel Farage's leadership - is to be investigated for alleged criminal offences along with Leave.EU, the pro-Brexit campaign group he funded.

Arron Banks, the British businessman best known for bankrolling the campaign for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, is back on the island.

The "suspected electoral law offences" were "appropriate" grounds for serious fraud specialists from the National Crime Agency (NCA) to go into action, the NCA said on Thursday (1 November). "These jurisdictions are beyond the reach of the Electoral Commission for the objective of obtaining information for use in criminal investigations or proceedings", he said.

Reporting by the New York Times and the Observer of London has showed Banks had previously undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom during the Brexit and Trump campaigns, during which he was allegedly offered favourable deals to invest in gold and diamonds.

The trip comes just as Mr Banks has been referred to the National Crime Agency in the United Kingdom over allegations of “impermissible sources” of funds used in the 2016 referendum.

Almost half of that - £2.9m - was used to fund spending in the 2016 EU referendum on behalf of Leave.EU and donations to other campaign groups, the commission said.

He was also asked about his trips to Moscow, and said his passport contained two Russian visas from March 2015 and October 2014.

Banks said he was confident a "full and frank investigation" would clear him.

Banks denied any criminal wrongdoing following the reports.

Arron Banks, a 52-year old insurance tycoon, had openly contributed £8m (€9m) to pro-Brexit groups, of which £2.9m was used directly in the campaign, the commission said. "As usual the Electoral Commission is batting for the Remainers in parliament".

It also looked at a reported £6m loan to the organisation by Mr Banks alone.

Britain's equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation - said Thursday it was investigating Arron Banks and other key figures in the Leave.EU movement.

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The Electoral Commission believes that one of the loans to "Leave.EU" may have come from Rock Holdings, a company incorporated in the Isle of Mann, which is not part of the United Kingdom but a self-governing possession of the British Crown.

The crime agency confirmed Thursday it is investigating but said it could not discuss "any operational detail".

United Kingdom law essentially bans financial donations being made to electoral campaigns from overseas or foreign donors.