Arron Banks, who gave £9m to Leave.EU and associated campaigns, is reportedly under investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA). But the complex web of financial links between Banks and his business associates, who may have benefited financially from the EU referendum result, should also be examined.
Those meetings with Russians
The fact that Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to the UK, arranged several meetings between senior Russians and Banks (along with his Leave.EU associate Andy Wigmore) seems not to be in question. It also seems highly likely that, at one of those meetings, a Russian businessman offered Banks multi-million-pound shares in a gold mine; and that, at a Moscow meeting, a representative of Sberbank (currently under US and EU sanctions) offered to fund the deal. Banks was also allegedly offered a stake in Russia’s diamond mining organisation Alrosa.
But the Russian Embassy denied it tried to influence the EU referendum:
The Russian Embassy has not in any way intervened in domestic UK political process, including the Brexit referendum.
However, the statement only referred to the role of the embassy, not of the deployment of bots used during the referendum campaign and identified as originating from Russia. Indeed, around 150,000 Russia-based Twitter accounts allegedly turned their attention on Brexit in the final days of the referendum. And claims by a data analyst suggest a Russian origin to many of these tweets.
No, the goldmine deal never went forward and never happened. We looked at it briefly, found out it was way too difficult, so did nothing further.
But what about the diamond mine deal? According to the New York Times, a fund management company, headed by Banks’s business partner Jim Mellon, took a stake in Alrosa via his company Charlemagne Capital (rebranded as DeVere) at below the market rate.
Farage played his part too
On the night of the EU referendum results, Sky News broadcast a statement by Leave.EU frontman Nigel Farage:
It’s been an extraordinary referendum campaign, turnout looks to be exceptionally high and [it] looks like Remain will edge it. UKIP and I are going nowhere and the party will only continue to grow stronger in the future
Bloomberg states that Farage:
Twice told the world on election night that Leave had likely lost, when he had information suggesting his side had actually won.
And the survey polls played their part too:
Exclusive: the inside story of how hedge funds made millions on Brexit with a little help from their friends in the private polling industry. Our latest. With the inestimable @CamSimpsonNews & @KitChellel https://t.co/5pfMvHDB0r
— Gavin Finch (@GavinFinchBBG) June 25, 2018
— Bloomberg Brexit (@Brexit) June 25, 2018
Farage has denied any wrongdoing. But Crispin Odey, who donated just under £15m to the Brexit campaigns, had bet on sterling “shorting” and so moved 65% of his funds into gold. Consequently, via his company Odey Asset Management, he made £220m in just a few hours.
Award-winning Observer journalist Carole Cadwalldr gave her interpretation of these events:
In summary, @bloomberg describes the referendum as a financial heist. The biggest insider trading job in history when pollsters colluded with hedge funds to create a fake bubble that was burst by a fake concession ..delivered by friend of the people, @Nigel_Farage. pic.twitter.com/fCwjDpx6LW
— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) June 25, 2018
More recently, Odey bet more than £500m on leading British companies failing.
Is Mellon key?
Jim Mellon is, perhaps, key to understanding Banks’s somewhat labyrinthine finance arrangements.
Mellon and Banks also co-founded Conister Trust, an offshore bank on the Isle of Man. Conister comes under Manx Financial Group PLC, which lists [pdf, p6] Mellon as chair and Banks as non-executive director. And t
Brexiteer threatens coup
— Helen Miller (@MsHelicat) July 1, 2018
Rees-Mogg’s 2015 election campaign was, incidentally, funded by Odey.
All this is at a time when businesses are joining unions to condemn the government’s Brexit strategy – or, rather, lack of one. This came after Airbus and BMW said jobs in the UK were at risk. More than 800,000 jobs could be lost across the wider vehicle manufacturing industry alone.
UBS survey of 600 companies spells out Brexit "dividend":
– 35% of companies plan to reduce UK investment post-Brexit
– 41% plan to move a large amount of capacity out of UK
– 42% plan to shift capacity to euro zone pic.twitter.com/ViGD8Cmy8j
— Peter Thal Larsen (@peter_tl) June 26, 2018
And then there was foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s infamous “fuck business” outburst.
— Andrew Adonis (@Andrew_Adonis) June 28, 2018
With businesses – and therefore jobs – haemorrhaging thick and fast, it now appears that the Tories are no longer the party of business – at least for now. The few investors – Brexit’s other ‘bad boys’ – who made a killing from the EU referendum result, meanwhile, are no doubt still laughing.
Featured image via Jonathan Rolande/Flickr