Vote Leave and Veterans for Britain investigated over European Union referendum spending

Lester Mason
November 20, 2017

The election watchdog today launched a new probe into spending by Brexit campaigns with questions over why Vote Leave gave £625,000 to activist Darren Grimes.

The commission said new information had since come to light which meant it had "reasonable grounds to suspect an offence may have been committed".

Vote Leave, the organisation fronted by Boris Johnson in the 2016 referendum, is being investigated over how much money it handed over to the anti-EU Veterans for Britain group and student Darren Grimes.

Vote Leave's spending return will also be investigated, as well as whether the campaign breached its spending limit.

Bob Posner, the commission's director of political finance and regulation, said there were legitimate questions over the funding of campaigners which "risks causing harm to voters' confidence in the referendum". It was also looking at whether Vote Leave delivered and incorrect spending return and whether it had exceeded its spending limit.

The fresh investigation follows a number of reports that Russian Federation interfered with the Brexit vote using a variety of paid operatives and automated bots on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to promote false narratives and foment distrust in Britain's democratic institutions.

The donation, made as Vote Leave approached its own spending limit of £7million, made Mr Grimes one of the best funded minor campaigns in the referendum.

Last November Grimes strongly denied any wrongdoing: "BeLeave used AggregateIQ services to help advertise to supporters online during the referendum".

Vote Leave finance director Antonia Flockton told a Commons select committee past year: "There is a question as to whether they were independent campaigns acting independently".

The Electoral Commission is already conducting investigations into other parts of the Brexit campaign and the new inquest re-opens an early issue.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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