This week it was announced that the National Crime Agency was going to investigate Arron Banks for the way he ran his unofficial leave campaign during the Brexit referendum. The Electoral Commission said “We have reasonable grounds to suspect a number of offences under electoral law may have been committed. Further offences are not within the regulatory remit of the Commission.”
There are multiple cases and criminal offences being investigated including those that involve the Leave.EU campaign itself, and an insurance millionaire Elizabeth Bilney.
The investigation relates to “the financial transactions which led to the £8m being paid into BFTC’s bank account. Mr Banks and Ms Bilney (and through them BFTC and Leave.EU) gave us unsatisfactory explanations about these transactions, and we have reasonable grounds to suspect that they knowingly concealed and sought to conceal the true circumstances.”
Bob Posner, the Electoral Commission’s director of political finance and regulation, 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, the responsible person for Leave.EU, knowingly concealed the true circumstances under which this money was provided. This is significant because at least £2.9m of this money was used to fund referendum spending and donations during the regulated period of the EU referendum.Our investigation has unveiled evidence that suggests criminal offences have been committed which fall beyond the remit of the commission. This is why we have handed our evidence to the NCA to allow them to investigate and take any appropriate law enforcement action. This is now a criminal investigation.”
The question now, is should there be a second vote?
Now that a criminal investigation has started, many anti-brexit campaigners are calling for Brexit to be paused, or delayed until we know more. MP David Lammy said the process for the UK to leave the EU “must be put on hold until we know the extent of these crimes against our democracy”
He isn’t the only one. Many Labour MP’s and Lib Dems have even claimed that Brexit cannot go ahead in light of these charges “a leave campaign littered with lies, deceit and allegations of much worse”.
While Downing Street has been unable to comment on this investigation, and both Banks and Bilney have rejected allegations that they have done anything wrong, it is time for us to ask the important questions.
For many, who have changed their mind since the vote in 2016, this is the news they’ve been waiting for. Finally there is a concrete reason to take a minute and pause before we leave the European Union.