'No evidence of criminal offences' by Arron Banks or Leave.EU

24 September 2019, 09:30

The National Crime Agency will take no further action against Mr Banks
The National Crime Agency will take no further action against Mr Banks. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The National Crime Agency have dropped an investigation into the pro-Brexit campaign after finding "no evidence" of criminality by its members.

An appeal by the Electoral Commission was accepted by the NCA to look into possible offences under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

It looked into the actions of Leave.EU's chief executive Elizabeth Bilney, businessman Arron Banks and a company called Better for the Country Ltd.

An NCA statement said: "[We] found no evidence that any criminal offences have been committed under PPERA or company law by any of the individuals or organisations referred to it by the Electoral Commission.

"[We] will therefore take no further action against Mr Banks, Ms Bilney, Better for the Country Ltd or Leave.EU in respect of this specific matter".

The NCA refused to rule out or confirm whether it was investigating reports that Mr Banks had been involved in "other criminality related to business dealings overseas."

Ms Bilney accused the Electoral Commission of bias on Twitter.

She tweeted: "Met Police - investigation dropped. NCA - investigation dropped. Both referrals from the Remain biased Electoral Commission fuelled by @DamianCollins @SKinnock @MollyMEP @CarolineLucas. Remain MP's desperately trying to overturn the result of the Referendum."

Mr Banks reacted to the news saying, "Victory is sweet .. poor little remainer!"

He continued: "No overseas money was used in the Brexit campaign, it was my money . We intend to issue a claim against the EC for the decision to refer this matter to the @NCA publicly. We calculate the losses well over £10million ..."

Mr Banks said the Electoral Commission had behaved "scandaloulsy", making "false" and "outrageous" allegations of criminal conduct.

He added: "For nearly a year, I have been subjected to an endless media campaign suggesting that I behaved improperly during the 2016 referendum campaign."

The Electoral Commission said the Leave.EU case highlighted an "apparent weakness" in the law which allowed foreign money into British politics.

"We are concerned about the apparent weakness in the law, highlighted by this investigation outcome, which allows overseas funds into UK politics," a commission spokesman said.

"We have made recommendations that would tighten the rules on campaign funding and deter breaches. We urge the UK's governments to act on those recommendations to support voter confidence.

"Significant sums were spent on campaigning at the 2016 EU referendum and it is vital that voters have transparency over the way these campaigns were funded.

"It is therefore right that suspected offences are investigated by the appropriate authorities, as the NCA has done in this case."