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article imageArron Banks: 'Bad boy' who bankrolled Brexit

By Robin MILLARD (AFP)     Nov 2, 2018 in World

Arron Banks, the self-styled bad boy of Brexit who bankrolled the successful grassroots Leave.EU campaign, is now facing a criminal probe into where its money came from.

Having made his fortune selling insurance, Banks joined forces with UK Independence Party (UKIP) figurehead Nigel Farage to target working-class voters uncomfortable with mass immigration and suspicious of Brussels.

Outspoken, passionate about leaving the EU and always keen to get the better of anyone who slights him, Banks, 52, revels in rubbing people up the wrong way.

His approach to the 2016 Brexit battle was heavily influenced by Donald Trump's run for the US presidency -- and Farage, accompanied by Banks, was the first foreign politician to meet Trump after his election.

Since his referendum victory, Banks has watched the disintegration of UKIP and faced questions about his tactics and finances -- culminating in a National Crime Agency investigation announced Thursday.

The NCA is probing Banks's alleged use of offshore companies to finance Leave.EU.

The probe came after the Electoral Commission regulator said it had "reasonable grounds" to believe Banks was not the true source of the money.

- Insurance to political provocateur -

Born in March 1966, Banks was a naughty boy at school and went into sales rather than further education.

He started in insurance with a junior job at Lloyd's of London and worked his way up the wealth ladder through various self-launched companies, notably GoSkippy.com.

Within his various active companies, he lists himself as a businessman, entrepreneur, director and insurance broker.

Banks accompanied Brexit champion Nigel Farage when he flew to the United States to congratulate Don...
Banks accompanied Brexit champion Nigel Farage when he flew to the United States to congratulate Donald Trump after his presidential win
JUSTIN TALLIS, AFP

He does not feature on The Sunday Times newspaper's Rich List 2018 of the 1,000 wealthiest individuals in Britain, which requires a minimum of £115 million.

He has two children from his first marriage and three more from his second in 2001 to Russian linguist Ekaterina Paderina.

Banks was a Conservative Party member who donated £25,000 to two local branches of the party in southwest England and loaned £75,000 to another.

He first came to prominence when he switched his financial backing from the Conservatives to the pro-Brexit UKIP in 2014.

William Hague, the former Conservative leader and foreign secretary, said he had "never heard of him" and so was not "too upset".

Smarting, Banks immediately whacked up his donation tenfold from £100,000 to £1 million.

Banks "hates political correctness and career politicians", Farage told the New Statesman magazine.

"When he lets his hair down, boy, he has fun," he added.

- Grasping for emotions -

Banks was fuming after Vote Leave was designated the official pro-Brexit campaign. He pumped millions of pounds into Leave.EU.

He identified that winning would rest on appealing to people's emotions -- notably on mass immigration -- rather than bombarding them with facts and economic forecasts.

Banks put millions of pounds into the Leave.EU group in the run-up to the Brexit referendum
Banks put millions of pounds into the Leave.EU group in the run-up to the Brexit referendum
LEON NEAL, AFP/File

The Leave.EU campaign reached out to socially conservative working-class voters with targeted social media messaging.

After victory, he has remained in the limelight, in the crosshairs of his opponents -- and now the NCA.

Banks published a memoir entitled "The Bad Boys of Brexit: Tales of Mischief, Mayhem & Guerilla Warfare in the EU Referendum Campaign".

He revealed he enjoyed "boozy lunches" with the Russian ambassador, but said nothing untoward happened.

He has since tried to launch a Brexiteer takeover of the Conservatives, feeling the battle for Britain's future was now an internal one within the governing party.

Banks is a Twitter warrior who relishes hitting back at his critics -- a style also in evidence in June when he testified before a parliamentary committee investigating fake news.

After three hours of questions, Banks walked out, saying it had long over-run and he had a lunch appointment.

Banks said he was confident that the NCA probe would "put an end to the ludicrous allegations" against him -- as he posted a picture of himself fishing in Bermuda.

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