Billionaire Brexit donor Arron Banks accused Andrew Marr of trying to ‘smear’ him today as the BBC interviewer demanded he explain where millions for Brexit came from.
He repeated his claims a police investigation will find ‘no Russian money’ in a heated live TV clash days after he was reported to the National Crime Agency on suspicion of making illegal donations in the Brexit battle.
Mr Banks insists the £6million he ploughed into Leave.EU campaign was ‘generated from cash and businesses in the UK’.
Police are looking at the case after investigations by the Electoral Commission. Mr Banks insisted the saga was a ‘misunderstanding’ about a ‘holding company’ he owns called Rock Holdings based on the Isle of Man.
He said the money he loaned Leave.EU during the referendum came from the UK-based firm Rock Services, which Mr Banks said insures thousands of people in Britain.
Marr suggested official records on Rock Services do not prove the source of the money – prompting Mr Banks to the BBC presenter of trying to ‘smear’ him.
Told he was ‘changing his story’ as Marr pressed for details on where the £6million came from, Mr Banks insisted he was ‘expanding it’.
Mr Banks even claimed the Government’s handling of Brexit had proved so ‘corrupt’ that ‘I think we would have been better to probably remain and not unleash these demons’.
Arron Banks (pictured today on the Marr show) insisted today there was ‘no Russian money’ behind the millions he spent fighting for Brexit
In a heated interview on BBC One, the billionaire told the Andrew Marr all the money he ploughed into Leave.EU campaign was ‘generated from cash and businesses in the UK’. Mr Banks is pictured today outside the BBC
Mr Banks (pictured outside the BBC today) insists the £6million he ploughed into Leave.EU campaign was ‘generated from cash and businesses in the UK’.
Mr Banks wielded papers he said cleared his name and insisted the Electoral Commission had never asked for bank statements to demonstrate where the cash came from.
What is Arron Banks accused of?
Arron Banks is accused of financing loans to Leave.EU and the parent company Better for the Company from illegal sources.
The Electoral Commission’s review said that, as well as having reasonable grounds to suspect he was not the true source of the cash, loans involved a company, Rock Holdings, based on the Isle of Man. This is banned under the rules.
While the Electoral Commission does not name Russia or any other possible source of the money, Mr Banks has repeatedly denied a link to the Kremlin.
The watchdog said it suspected Mr Banks, Ms Bilney and others involved the campaign to have concealed the true details of the financial transactions.
It believes a number of criminal offences may have been committed and passed it to the National Crime Agency. It said its investigation relates to suspected electoral law offences.
He said: ‘I am telling you the Electoral Commission never asked for the bank statements? Why?’
Mr Banks claimed: ‘This is about undermining Article 50, this is about undermining the Brexit vote.’
Told by Mr Marr there was ‘no evidence’ of the money inside Rock Services, Mr Banks insisted ‘you’re getting it wrong’.
Mr Banks said Rock Services has ‘all sorts of revenues’ but did not detail them.
He said: ‘Rock Services has all sorts of revenues – we insure half a million people.
‘I know it’s complex for journalists to understand but we know what this is about – it’s about undermining Article 50 and the Brexit result.
‘It’s a group of vicious MPs who have grouped together with the Guardian and the FT.’
Separately, Mr Banks was also accused today of misleading MPs over the connections between his insurance business and his Brexit campaign.
He told MPs his Eldon insurance firm was separate the Leave.EU campaign he bankrolled – but leaked emails today suggest staff were ordered to work on the Brexit battle.
Arron Banks (pictured today at the BBC) was accused of misleading MPs over the connections between his insurance business and his Brexit campaign today
Today’s claims are a fresh blow to Mr Banks who was placed under police investigation over the source of money for millions in donations he made to Leave.EU.
Mr Banks responded to the claims and told Marr: ‘I can say that was reported to the Electoral Commission and people who did work for Eldon were transferred over on short-term contracts legally and it was reported through the Electoral Commission in the right way.
‘You are talking about emails that were stolen from us.’
Mr Banks was asked about a report in the Sunday Times that he would back Remain if the 2016 referendum were re-run.
He replied: ‘What I said was that the corruption I have seen in British politics, the sewer that exists and the disgraceful behaviour of the Government over what they are doing with Brexit and how they are selling out, means that if I had my time again I think we would have been better to probably remain and not unleash these demons.’
Mr Banks has not been arrested and has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, including claims the money came from Russia.
He flew back to Britain from Bermuda yesterday and will defend himself in a high profile interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr today.
Tory MP and chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee Damian Collins interrogated Mr Banks in Parliament earlier this year.
He told the Observer: ‘If Eldon employees were being paid to work on the campaign during the regulated period, it should have been a declared expense.
‘We asked him directly if he’d used his insurance employees to work on the campaigns and he said they didn’t.’
Emails seen by the paper suggest that Eldon employees worked on some of Leave.EU’s most controversial referendum messaging.
The work included campaigns similar to Ukip’s notorious ‘Breaking Point’ poster, which appeared in June 2016, days before the EU referendum on 23 June 2016.
One ex-employee told the paper: ‘I made it absolutely clear that I didn’t want to work on the political stuff. I wasn’t comfortable with it.
‘I didn’t want to be complicit in it. There were quite a lot of spats about it. People were frozen out if they refused to work on it.’
Arron Banks is being investigated by police over Brexit campaign funding – and responded with this tweet of himself relaxing in Bermuda
Mr Banks, who is being investigated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) over whether he was the ‘true source’ of £8 million given to the Leave.EU campaign, claims he is the victim of a ‘politically motivated’ vendetta by the ‘anti-Brexit Establishment’.
Mr Banks, who was returning from holiday in Bermuda, showed bank statements to The Mail on Sunday which he said proved that ‘no large amounts of cash flowed in during 2015 or 2016 from any source’.
The self-proclaimed ‘Bad Boy of Brexit’ will show the documents to NCA officers tomorrow.
The partially redacted statements show modest incomes and outgoings at Rock Holdings, an account at the centre of the probe.
‘I have done nothing illegal and I am confident I will be cleared of the ludicrous allegations levelled against us’, Mr Banks said.
Tory MP and chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee Damian Collins (file image) interrogated Mr Banks in Parliament earlier this year. He demanded answers about the new claims today
He described as ‘absurd’ the claim he was ‘an agent of the Russian state’. ‘I understand that among the millions who voted Remain, many still feel sore that they lost,’ he said.
‘That does not give them the right to undermine the will of the majority. They simply have to accept that if they want to live in a democracy, Brexit is a reality.’
The Electoral Commission also referred Leave.EU, its chief executive, Elizabeth Bilney, and the organisation that ran it, Better For The Country, to the NCA.
Bob Posner, the Commission’s director of political finance, said: ‘We have reasonable grounds to suspect money given to Better For The Country came from impermissible sources and that Mr Banks and Ms Bilney knowingly concealed the true circumstances under which this money was provided.
‘This is significant because at least £2.9 million of this money was used to fund referendum spending and donations.’ Mr Banks insists that lawyers prepared his ‘loan structure within Electoral Commission rules’.