The time inevitably comes when pretence has to end and reality faced. And for those who had previously been happy to give Arron Banks, the alleged “man who bankrolled Brexit”, the benefit of the doubt over his business dealings, that moment came yesterday evening after Channel 4 News asked the kinds of questions that Banksy would rather not be asked about his investment in a diamond mine in Lesotho.
Only last September, he told “This is another important development for Lesotho’s future economic growth, spearheading the revival of the kingdom’s diamond industry. We are confident the mine will generate important royalties for the economy, which we will continue to distribute through our ongoing program of philanthropy in Lesotho”.
There was more. “The area around the latest find has already produced some of the world’s most beautiful and clear stones, and judging by our initial exploration I am confident it won’t be too long before we find similar large diamonds … Our aim now is to invest heavily in the future development of the mine and ultimately the Lesotho economy”.
But “Channel 4 News carried out interviews with Banks’ employees who said that in the three years in which the mine has been operational, they have never heard of any diamonds being recovered from the site. Now they have been told the mine will close in August 2018”. And as for the “significant find” of diamonds, well, it wasn’t.
“The Commissioner of Mines, Mr Piel Rochacha, showed Channel 4 News five small stones which he told us amounted to a total of 12 carats. He said the value of the stones found was less than $3,000 … Asked about Banks’ claims in the Economic Voice, The Commissioner told us: ‘that is a pure lie… the stones are small… for the quality of diamonds you would normally expect for a find in Lesotho I wouldn’t call it significant.’”
Yet Banks “arranged and authorised the payments totalling ZAR 330,000 (GBP 19,000)” to a Lesotho cabinet minister. What on earth for? He “was in the process of applying for a government licence to prospect for alluvial diamonds in Lesotho”, but it’s clear that the mine, such as it was, wasn’t worth buying. Banks denies bribery.
So far, so interesting, but it is what happened in the wake of the Channel 4 News investigation and broadcast that shows Banks is losing support. After the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr had mused “So this is interesting new detail. Because this looks like it could be an offence under UK Bribery Act, no? Which is *serious*, isn’t it, Arron? People go to jail for that, don’t they?” there was a significant act of bus under-throwing.
New Banks mansion shock
This came from one of Ms Cadwalladr’s most persistent critics, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, who posted “Banks Accused If Bribing Ministre In Lesotho For Mining Licence” and noted “Looks like Arron’s emails are being shared widely beyond the Observer”. Banks dismissed this as “a load of bollox”.
If The Great Guido is throwing Banks under the bus, that is hugely significant. It suggests that the great Brexit backer has outlived his usefulness. Bye Banksy. Don’t forget to write.