UK major crimes unit opens probe into 'chief' Brexiteer

Arron Banks (R) and Andy Wigmore, who ran the Leave.Eu pro-Brexit referendum campaign, leave after giving evidence to the Digital Culture Media and Sport Parliamentary Committee in June this year. (Reuters/Simon Dawson)

Arron Banks (R) and Andy Wigmore, who ran the Leave.Eu pro-Brexit referendum campaign, leave after giving evidence to the Digital Culture Media and Sport Parliamentary Committee in June this year. (Reuters/Simon Dawson)

Britain’s serious and organised crime police on Thursday opened an investigation into businessman Arron Banks, the main donor to the Brexit campaign, following a referral from election officials.

“Our investigation relates to suspected electoral law offences… as well as any associated offences,” the National Crime Agency said in a statement, following a referral from the Electoral Commission over the 2016 Brexit referendum campaign.

The NCA said its criminal investigation would focus on Banks himself, as well as two companies associated with him — Better for the Country (BFTC) and campaign group Leave.EU.

They will also investigate Leave.EU chief Elizabeth Bilney.

READ MORE: Who is Arron Banks — the bad boy of Brexit?

The Electoral Commission, an independent body set up to ensure electoral rules are respected, said its investigation had focused on the £2-million reported to have been loaned to BFTC by Banks and his insurance companies.

They also looked into a further £6-million reported to have been given to the organisation on behalf of Leave.EU by Banks alone.

Some of that money — £2.9 million — was used to fund referendum spending on behalf of Leave.EU and donations to other campaign groups during the referendum, the Electoral Commission said.

It said it had “reasonable grounds” to suspect that Banks was not the true source of the £8-million loans made to BFTC.

READ MORE: Hawks confirm probe involving chief Brexit financier

The commission also said it suspected that the loans involved a company incorporated in the Isle of Man, a British crown dependency, which is not permissible under British electoral law.

“A number of criminal offences may have been committed,” it said.

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