Call for bribery claims against top Brexit donor to be investigated

By agency reporter
July 27, 2018

Transparency International UK has called for an immediate and thorough government investigation into claims made by a Channel 4 News investigation that a high profile British businessman and a major player in the UK political process paid bribes to secure a mining licence in Lesotho. At the same time efforts to ensure the integrity of political contributions made at the 2016 referendum must continue robustly.

The Channel 4 investigation found that Arron Banks, co-founder of Mohokare Mining, made two payments to a Minister in Lesotho whilst applying for a prospecting mining licence that was later secured. Mr Banks denies that these payments were made in return for the granting of the licence.

The picture is further complicated, says Transparency International, because Mr Banks is the founder of the political movement Leave.EU and a substantial donor to UKIP.  This raises the very concerning prospect that, if these allegations are proven correct, a major player in the UK political establishment would have acted corruptly.

Under the UK Bribery Act (2010) it is a criminal offence to bribe a foreign official. Given the seriousness of these allegations, and the related link to the UK’s electoral system, the UK’s law enforcement authorities should look into the case as a matter of urgency to establish whether bribes were paid, says Transparency International UK. Any individuals found guilty should be appropriately punished, with jail sentences where necessary. Meanwhile, the UK’s law enforcement and electoral authorities should examine the implications with regard to electoral law and the probity of the Brexit referendum.

Kathryn Higgs, Transparency International UK Director of Business Integrity, said: “The allegations made in these media reports are extremely serious and warrant full investigation by the UK authorities. Nobody should be above the law, however prominent they are in the political sphere: if it is found that individuals have been involved in paying bribes to a foreign official, they should be properly punished including where appropriate with prison sentences. The most appropriate course of action for those accused would be to cooperate fully with any action taken by law enforcement authorities.

“Bribery is never a victimless crime and when British businesses and individuals pay bribes overseas it can harm local populations and deprive them of vital public revenue whilst creating an unfair playing field for business more generally. This is why the Bribery Act is such an important piece of legislation.

“The allegations arise at an important time in British politics whilst efforts to ensure the integrity of political contributions made at the 2016 referendum [are] ongoing. It is important that questions continue to be asked about the integrity of participants from all sides in the EU referendum and the public require reassurance that donations made to the campaigns were from legitimate and clean sources. This further highlights the need for campaign finance reform to rebuild trust in a political system that has in recent years had its reputation damaged by numerous funding scandals.”

* Transparency International UK  http://www.transparency.org.uk/

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