Brexit

Brexit 'dark money' was 'channelled through DUP'

The DUP spent £282,000 on a wraparound advert in London's Metro newspaper in support of Brexit

THE Electoral Commission has "more than enough" to obtain court orders to compel answers from the DUP and Vote Leave campaign about possible links and allegations 'dark money' was channelled through them to influence the Brexit poll, it was claimed last night.

Electoral law expert Gavin Millar QC was speaking during a BBC Spotlight programme which traced the apparent source of controversial donations to a "phantom company" in the Ukraine with links to a convicted German fraudster.

There has been controversy over a £435,000 donation from the "secretive" Constitutional Research Council (CRC) to the DUP, which was used to fund pro-Brexit advertisements in England and Scotland including a `wrap around' on London's Metro freesheet.

Spotlight claimed that, while the advert bore the legal imprint of Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson on behalf of the DUP, "the ad wasn't booked by Jeffrey Donaldson or anyone in the DUP (but) by (CRC chairman) Richard Cook".

The party also spent money in Scotland, where it provided material for street canvassers that was almost identical to that of Vote Leave - on both occasions when the official campaign had reached its spending limits.

Mr Millar described this as a "weird mix of facts the like of which I haven't come across before".

The DUP was a registered campaigner in the referendum and as such was allowed to electioneer across the UK and has repeatedly, along with Mr Cook, denied it was in breach of electoral law.

If the two campaigns were working together on a common plan then, by law, it should have been disclosed to the Electoral Commission.

The programme said Canadian company Aggregate IQ (AIQ) - a data analytics firm with close ties to Cambridge Analytica - was also paid £32,000 by the DUP in the last two days of the campaign, when Vote Leave had reached its spending limit.

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie claimed he was told by AIQ head Jeff Silvester that the DUP was introduced by Vote Leave at a time when it was "looking for ways to put more money into the operation that they were running and the DUP was in effect a vehicle to do that".

The programme claimed the AIQ chief had said "he worked with Lee Reynolds in the DUP".

However, the Belfast councillor had officially taken a break from the party to oversee the Northern Ireland arm of Vote Leave.

Mr Millar described the claim as "extremely significant".

"The implication is the DUP's dealings with AIQ are... nominal, that it's just a sham, that they are a front for in fact the intentions and dealings of Vote Leave."

The lawyer said the Electoral Commission should "make detailed and specific demands" of the campaigns and Mr Cook to see whether further investigation "warrants bringing in the police".

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