Dark money: did Russia interfere in Brexit vote?

MP cites ‘worrying’ reports that Russian cash funded Leave campaign

Vote Leave sign
Questions have been raised about who bankrolled the Leave campaign
(Image credit: BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw is calling for an inquiry into claims that Russia may have interfered in the Brexit referendum and that “dark money” funded the Vote Leave campaign.

Addressing Parliament yesterday, Bradshaw cited “widespread concern over foreign and particularly Russian interference in Western democracies”. He said there were also questions surrounding the wealth of Arron Banks - described by The Guardian as “the entrepreneur who bankrolled Brexit”.

Bradshaw cited “very worrying” reports by the OpenDemocracy website into funding of the Leave campaign. The site claims Banks contributed £9.6m to the Leave movement even though he was in financial trouble at the time - leading to questions about the source of the money.

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Banks has repeatedly denied that any Russian funding was used to support the Brexit campaign, reports The New York Times.

Earlier this year, OpenDemocracy also claimed that a £435,000 donation to the Leave campaign was made through Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose MPs are now propping up Theresa May’s minority government.

The DUP has only confirmed that the allegedly “illegal” donation existed.

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Banks made no immediate official statement on Bradshaw’s parliamentary accusations yesterday, The Guardian reports. His spokesman has previously said that Banks “broadly agrees” with a £250m estimate of his total fortune.

However, the millionaire did respond to the OpenDemocracy reports on Twitter. He claims the advocacy group are funded by “George Soros + rich foundations”, and added, “As Churchill said, I’m obviously upsetting the right sort of people.”

Banks also denied some social media reports that he was “sweating”, noting that he was actually enjoying a “jolly nice” holiday.

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Earlier this year Bradshaw contacted Margaret Beckett, chair of the UK’s Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, to lodge a similar request for a Russia-Brexit investigation.

A spokesperson for the Culture, Media, and Sport Committee told Business Insider in February that it would be examining the role of Russia as part of a fake news inquiry, but a spokesperson for the Joint Commitee on National Security Strategy then told the website it had “no plans to take this up directly”.

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