The presence behind the funding of Leave EU, businessman Arron Banks, is never backwards in coming forwards to tell the public that he is considerably richer than most of them. He conservatively estimates his net worth to be around £100 million. He owns a large and apparently luxurious residence near Bristol. And, for all I know, he ranks as high as any in Rome. But questions are now being asked as to how rich he really is.
Banks was one of the names unearthed in the Panama Papers data leak. This was not the only low tax and/or offshore jurisdiction in which he was involved. But he then made great play of letting the world know that he not only paid tax in the UK, but that in May 2013, he had paid HMRC more than £1.85 million of it. Yet the questions persisted.
As the Guardian observed, “Under the name Arron Fraser Andrew Banks he is registered as a former director or former secretary of 34 different companies, but has resigned from all of them … A spokesman for Banks said that he declined to answer questions over his Companies House entries as well as other matters and preferred instead to ‘correct [the Guardian’s] mistakes in court’”. So when is the court case?
Moreover, some of Banks’ claims seemed not to add up: “Ukip claimed that he had given £250,000 to the Tories. But from Electoral Commission records, he gave £5,000 under the name Arron F Banks in May 2009 to Thornbury and Vale Conservative Association; and a second payment of £20,000 to Northavon Conservative Association in January 2007”.
There was more. “A Ukip source said that he had also loaned £75,417 to Thornbury and Yate Conservative party through his former company Panacea Finance in September 2007 … However, Companies House records show that Banks resigned from the company in September 2005, two years before the loan was granted”.
And then we have the current issue of Private Eye magazine (#1448, available at all good news stands right now), which has considered Banks’ investment in a number of South African diamond mines. He claimed to have bought the de Beers’ mines. But the de Beers connection was rather more tenuous, as was their value.
It is in the conclusion of the Eye article that the question is put: “The Banks diamond mines’ value is unclear … on the basis of Banks’ own ‘water glass’ estimate, they are hardly a major contributor to the Brexit funder’s suggested £250 million fortune - rather like his investments in iodine producer Iofina and Manx Financial Group”.
Do go on. “Meanwhile, the flotation of his UK insurance broking business, Eldon Insurance Services - on which the generous £250m estimate appears to largely ride - is on hold. Said by the Sunday Times last Januery to be due ‘this summer’, Banks told the Financial Times last month it could take place ‘maybe next year’”.
Meanwhile, Banks’ piss-poor Westmonster propaganda website has resorted to carrying very prominent adverts for his GoSkippy online insurance service. So is Arron Banks worth all that much? Was he the source of the Leave EU millions? And if the answer to either or both of those questions is “No”, then who might he be fronting for?
Curiouser and curiouser. But we may be about to get some answers - stay tuned.