Arron Banks faces questions from the Electoral Commission over whether one of his companies breached rules about donations during the EU referendum campaign.
The investigation focuses on Better for the Country Limited, a campaigning firm which reportedly donated nearly £2.4m to Brexit-backing causes, including Grassroots Out and Ukip. It will ask whether the company was the true source of donations, or if it was acting as an agent, whether the recipients took steps to identify the true source of the donor and whether Banks made loans to campaigners.
The Electoral Commission’s Bob Posner said: “Questions over the legitimacy of funding provided to campaigners at the referendum risks causing harm to voters’ confidence.
“It is therefore in the public interest that the Electoral Commission seeks to ascertain whether or not impermissible donations were given to referendum campaigners and if any other related offences have taken place.”
Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA), anyone donating more than £500 to a campaign group must reveal the original source of the money. For example, someone donating the proceeds of a fundraising dinner would have to reveal the details of the actual donors.
Permissable donors include most UK-registered companies, trade unions and mutuals, and individuals registered to vote in the UK.
Banks is a director of Better for the Country Limited. While he was registered as a permitted participant in the EU referendum, Better for the Country Limited was not. However, five registered campaigners reported donations from it. As well as Grassroots Out and Ukip, these were Trade Unionists Against the EU, Veterans for Britain and WAG TV, which made the widely shared film Brexit: The Movie.