UK Electoral Commission investigates ‘leave’ tycoon Arron Banks over Brexit donations

FILE PHOTO: Arron Banks stands alongside Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), as he makes a statement after Britain voted to leave on the European Union in London, Britain, June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Electoral Commission said on Wednesday it had opened an investigation into whether Brexit campaigner Arron Banks breached campaign finance rules in the 2016 European Union referendum.

The Commission, which oversees elections and referendums in Britain, said it was investigating whether Banks was the true source of loans that were reported to be in his name.

FILE PHOTO: British businessman Arron Banks, who has funded the Leave.EU campaign, is seen during the opening day of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) annual conference at Doncaster Racecourse in Doncaster, northern Britain September 25, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Yates/File Photo

Banks, a multi-millionaire British insurance tycoon, helped to bankroll the Leave.EU group. The group did not lead the official campaign for Britain to quit the EU, but was credited with mobilising people who do not typically vote.

Banks, responding on Twitter to the announcement of the investigation, quipped: “Gosh I’m terrified.” His spokesman could not be reached for further comment.

In the June 23, 2016 referendum, 17.4 million voters, or 51.9 percent of votes cast, backed leaving the EU while 16.1 million voters, or 48.1 percent of votes cast, backed staying.

“Questions over the legitimacy of funding provided to campaigners at the referendum risks causing harm to voters’ confidence,” said Bob Posner, Director of Political Finance and Regulation & Legal Counsel at the Commission.

“It is therefore in the public interest that the Electoral Commission seeks to ascertain whether or not impermissible donations were given to referendum campaigners and if any other related offences have taken place,” he said.

 

(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

 

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