In Brief

What links the DUP, Brexit and Saudi Arabia?

A mysterious donation has brought the party's EU referendum campaign into the spotlight

Could the Brexit campaign really have been funded, in part, from Saudi Arabia?

A report from The Independent's Ian Johnston discusses "a strange tale involving Theresa May's new 'friends' in the Democratic Unionist Party, the Brexit referendum campaign and a mysterious donation of £425,000".

The money was listed as part of the DUP's spending on the EU referendum campaign, but political opponents are now asking where the donation originated, believing it may have breached electoral rules. It has been rumoured - without much evidence - it came from Saudi Arabia, something the DUP denies.

What was the donation?

Records on DUP spending during the referendum campaign includes buying a pro-Brexit advert in the Metro newspaper, which is not published in Northern Ireland. It cost £282,000, says The Guardian, part of the party's total spend of £425,000 fighting to leave the EU - "more than seven times the party's declared expenditure of £58,183 on the 2015 general election".

As funding rules dating back to the Troubles mean Northern Ireland's political parties are allowed to accept anonymous contributions, it is not known who funded the DUP's pro-Brexit campaign. Also because of this, a spokesman for the Electoral Commission was unable to say if the donation complied with the law, or if it had been checked by the commission.

In February, after some political pressure, DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson revealed the adverts had been bought using a £425,000 donation from a group called the Constitutional Research Council, chaired by former Scottish Tory vice chairman Richard Cook.

Donaldson described the council as a "group of businessmen that promotes pro-union politics".

He added: "I believe it is a reputable organisation and we are very pleased to have received that donation for our national campaign."

What's the Saudi link?

A possible link was made by Adam Ramsay, co-editor of the OpenDemocracyUK website.

Examining documents held at Companies House, he discovered Cook had, in 2013, founded a company called Five Star Investment Management with Prince Nawwaf bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, which, says the site, "was seen by economists as a likely beneficiary from Brexit". The company was dissolved the following year, it adds.

However, Ramsay said he has no evidence that the £425,000 came from a Saudi source.

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