Should Brexit be halted for Arron Banks investigation?
National Crime Agency launches investigation into major donor and others linked to Leave.EU campaign
News that Arron Banks and other senior figures linked to the Leave.EU campaign are under investigation has once again raised questions about the validity of the EU referendum result, and prompted calls for the Brexit process to be halted.
The National Crime Agency has launched an investigation into Banks, Leave.EU chair Liz Bilney and other unnamed individuals for alleged offences relating to campaign donations, after being referred by the Electoral Commission.
“In an explosive statement set to reignite controversy over the funding of pro-Brexit groups,” the election watchdog said it had reasonable grounds to suspect that the insurance millionaire who backed the unofficial campaign, was not the “true source” of £8m in funding, reports The Independent.
Under UK law, loans and donations to registered campaigners can only come from permissible sources, “which essentially excludes overseas or foreign funding”, says the BBC.
Leave.EU, which was backed by senior Brexiteers including Nigel Farage, has already been fined £70,000 over spending irregularities.
In a statement, the NCA, which usually focuses on tackling serious and organised crime, said that “while electoral law offences would not routinely fall within the NCA’s remit, the nature of the necessary inquiries and the potential for offences to have been committed other than under electoral law led us to consider an NCA investigation appropriate in this instance”.
Banks, who yesterday tweeted a defiant picture while on holiday in Bermuda, said the Electoral Commission had acted “under intense political pressure from anti-Brexit supporters” while Bilney denied the money had come from Russia.
Both said they rejected any allegations of wrongdoing, arguing that the investigation was motivated by political considerations.
It is not the first time Banks’ personal finances have come under scrutiny, but news that the NCA has launched an official investigation into his Leave.EU donations have sparked called for the Brexit process to be halted.
Responding to news of the NCA investigation Labour said these were “serious allegations”. However, it has stopped short of officially calling for a halt to the Brexit process.
Theresa May’s spokeswoman she was unable to comment on the ongoing criminal investigation but said there was “no evidence” to suggest possible Russian involvement in the vote, as has been speculated.
Supporters of Brexit dismiss speculation that foreign money was used to sway the campaign and rejected calls to halt the withdrawal process, “saying that attempts to stop Brexit would thrust Britain into a grave political crisis” reports Reuters.