Despite his apparent lack of surplus wealth, small-time businessman Arron Banks managed to pony up a whopping £9 million in donations and loans to Leave EU, thus becoming the figure of legend that was “The man who bankrolled Brexit”. For someone who, like his great friend Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, not well off at all at the turn of the Millennium, it was a remarkable achievement.
It remained a remarkable achievement, providing one did not probe too deeply into how Banks got his hands on all that dosh. Those thus probing, like the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, found themselves threatened with legal action. But the legal action, like Godot, never did come. No matter, at least Banks was candid about his achievements.
But he was only candid up to a point: Leave EU had used the services of Cambridge Analytica, until the latter became too hot to handle, at which point they hadn’t. And he and his pal Andy Wigmore were more than happy to submit themselves to the inquisition of the Commons DCMS Committee, until something happened, and they perhaps weren’t.
Also, at the time he was not well-known, nor well-off, “Banks met the woman who was to become his second wife, a Portsmouth-based Russian called Ekaterina Paderina”. She has long been rumoured to have been, let us say, an asset of the Russian state. His pal Farage, by complete coincidence you understand, has also recently been fingered as the possible go-between linking the Trump gang to Julian Assange of Wikileaks, the latter also now believed to be a Russian asset. Now let’s add all of these snippets together.
Arron Banks denied being yet another asset of the gangster régime of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. He denied the rumours that he was a regular guest of the Russian ambassador. But now we know that Banksy did have meetings with the ambassador. Lots of meetings. And he did not, it seems, just meet with the ambassador.
His denials are as so much dust: the email trove to which his nemesis, the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, now has access will finish his reputation - what little remains of it - and may yet finish him period. The next few days will be key.
And he cannot stop or even interrupt the bandwagon of discovery that has begun to roll. Nor has the Max Clifford-esque damage limitation exercise enacted on his behalf by his ghostwriter Isabel Oakeshott had any effect. He is toast.
We know this after Chris Wylie, former Cambridge Analytica staffer turned gamekeeper, gave us a taster of what is in store for all those allegedly Bad Boys of Brexit. It will not make for comfortable reading in Banks’ circle. And nor should it.
On the subject of Banks’ meetings at the Russian embassy, he told “I have personally seen these emails/documents and informed both British and American intelligence about them months ago. Brexit looks like it may be part of a coordinated Russian information operation. More to come”. Got that? And there’s more.
“I have seen documents showing the Russian embassy in UK facilitating financial transactions for UK nationals during Brexit. I have also seen documents about the Russian embassy receiving intel on Brexit campaign and leaked FBI documents. This is a serious matter”. That’s some understatement he’s indulging in there.
And if Banks and his pals thought that was to be the end of it, they had another think coming: “Why would Brexit campaigners leak sensitive FBI docs and intel to the Russian embassy in London? More to come”. Plus “I will be providing the DCMS committee with more information about the Russian embassy's involvement with Brexit campaigners on Tuesday. People need to know what happened and if Brexit was part of a Russian influence operation”. Then came the coup de grace.
“If Vote Leave used illegal money and illegal data, and if LeaveEU officials were secretly discussing deals at the Russian embassy, then how can we have any confidence in the Brexit referendum result? Our democracy and our country is at risk from these people”.
The time for Banks and his pals to threaten, to spin, to spoil, that is long gone. So are the opportunities for Vote Leave and its backers to pretend the other lot were also at it. The house is about to fall in on the inmates; we are approaching the endgame.
For Arron Banks, the choice is as simple as it is stark: does he come clean now, or come clean later? Either way, he has to quit screwing around and face the music. That is all.