Brexit campaign group Leave.EU has gone into liquidation as its controversial co-founder Arron Banks appears to write off a loan worth more than £7million.
Documents submitted to Companies House also reveal that the anti-EU lobby group, which was led by Nigel Farage during the 2016 EU referendum campaign, has failed to pay tens of thousands of fines owed to the Commissioner’s Office to Information (ICO) for violation of data law.
Yet Banks’ decision to apparently write off £7,051,987 in loans to Leave.EU will spark the biggest controversy after years of speculation over the source of his funding for the EU referendum campaign.
In 2018, a referral was made by the Electoral Commission to the National Crime Agency, claiming that Banks was not the “true source” of the loan and that the money came from “unauthorized sources”.
The NCA found no evidence of criminality, final that Banks took out a loan from an Isle of Man company he owned, which he was legally allowed to do.
Banks had denied any wrongdoing and dismissed claims about its funding as “ridiculous”.
Critics said yesterday that the apparent £7m write-off could be seen by banks as a reasonable price for the disruption caused by Brexit.
Chris Bryant, chairman of the House of Commons standards committee, said: ‘I wonder when we will wake up to the real damage that has been done [by Banks] to this country. The £7million he has in his pocket is frankly the least of it.
Another Labor MP, Ben Bradshaw, said: ‘£7million is a very small fine for the long-term damage Banks has done to Britain.
Bradshaw, who previously called on the government to investigate more widely the possible role played by ‘black money’ in the EU referendum, added: ‘This whole sorry saga illustrates the importance of strong independent regulation political donations and campaign finance at a time when the Conservative government is determined to emasculate the Election Commission.
Last month the government published details of an “electoral power grab” which many believe would undermine the independence of the commission.
Banks have been the mainstay of the Brexit campaign. In the spring of 2016 he gave Leave.EU £6 million in loans – a huge amount for a UK political campaign – which reports said were due to be repaid by the end of 2017.
Companies House documents confirm that Banks, a former Ukip donor, never called for such large debts, instead appearing to choose to write them off in April this year, by which time the sum had topped £7million of pounds sterling due to a change in borrowing and interest. rates.
The documents also show that Leave.EU failed to pay £52,000 in fines owed to the ICO.
After an investigation into the misuse of personal data by political campaigns, Leave.EU has been fined £45,000 for sending over a million emails to its subscribers containing marketing for a insurance company owned by Banks.
He was also fined £15,000 for unlawfully using Eldon Insurance customer details to send nearly 300,000 political marketing messages, ahead of the referendum.
Leave.EU said at the time it was a “politically motivated attack” because of its involvement in Brexit.
On Saturday, an ICO spokesperson said: “We will continue to monitor the progress of the insolvency and support the liquidator in their requests if necessary.”
In 2018, when it was announced that the NCA was investigating allegations that he hid the source of donations used to fund Leave.EU, Banks said: “There is no evidence of wrongdoing by the part of the businesses I own. I am a UK taxpayer and have never received foreign donations.
The leading Brexit campaigner added that he was “confident that a full and frank investigation will finally put an end to the ridiculous allegations made against me and my colleagues”.
The banks have been approached to comment on the liquidation of Leave.EU and whether it has written off the £7m.
According to a submission to Companies House, Leave.EU had assets worth £4,233 at the time of liquidation.