After the news broke that Arron Banks, the alleged “man who bankrolled Brexit”, had been referred to the National Crime Agency over his role in the 2016 EU referendum, and especially over those millions in loans and donations which may or may not have been impermissible, someone in the Northcliffe House bunker allowed the thought to enter that Banksy should perhaps have been investigated before the event, not just after.
That meant going back to early 2016, or even earlier. So now the Daily Mail has joined the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, and Open Democracy stalwarts Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay in a most unlikely alliance. Why should this be? Well, shilling for Brexit is all very well, but for those Daily Mail readers, not if it means allying with gauche spivs like Banks and his equally unappealing sidekick Andy Wigmore.
So it was that Banksy found himself on the front page of today’s Mail, which put the question Zelo Street has been putting for some months now (but good to see Geordie Greig’s finest catching up at last): “As Police probe ‘Brexit bad boy’ Arron Banks, did Russian money help fund his £8m Leave campaign?” And as much of that £8m was not spent on the campaign, what was its purpose? Did someone mention money laundering?
The supporting article by Richard Pendlebury delivers the full Mail nudge and wink treatment, and with what may prove to be an incendiary headline: “So how could Brexit Bad Boy Arron Banks afford to give £8m to the Leave campaign... and why did Theresa May STOP security services probing him before the referendum?” She did?
Hold that thought for a minute, though. Pendlebury also says, in not so many words, that the Mail reckons it knows where Banksy got the dosh. “Leave.EU was founded by Banks in 2015. He said it would campaign for Brexit ‘outside the Westminster Bubble’ … How far outside the SW1 postcode his Leave.EU donations were originally sourced - Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin and his oligarch allies loom large in this story - is now the business of the National Crime Agency”. Looming large in this story means They Done It.
Worse for Banks, the Mail homes in directly on the question of his wealth, or possible lack of it: “His four diamond mines in South Africa and Lesotho - a region where he has spent considerable time since 2014 - are said to be ailing if not moribund, for example … His insurance companies have owed millions; his bank on the Isle of Man was performing ‘poorly’; his stake in a law firm was far smaller than advertised … One investigation calculated the money he had supposedly donated to the Brexit campaign constituted half of his lifetime’s total earnings, which did not make sense”. Quite.
So the Mail is on Banksy’s tail, then. But the real bombshell comes with this snippet: “The Mail understands that in early 2016 the then home secretary Theresa May declined a request by one of the security services to investigate Banks … The topic was simply too explosive in the run up to the referendum”. It’s even more explosive now.
Why did Theresa May not approve the spooks’ request? They would hardly have asked for the sheer hell of it. Worse for her, what the Mail has done is to dob her in as making a catastrophic error of judgment, just as her leadership comes under renewed pressure.
The Daily Mail finishing off its own chosen Prime Minister? Curiouser and curiouser.
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