With PayPal set to give evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in two weeks, Turlough Conway, who broke the Brexit Party funding scandal on Byline Times, says the company can provide answers to where the money came from.
In early March, the Brexit Party launched with great fanfare and Nigel Farage boasted that it had raised £750,000 – in donations of £500 or under – in 10 days. But, as Byline Times revealed, there was a huge hole in the way it had received these donations through its PayPal portal.
The Brexit Party had made a decision to change its PayPal system so that donors could not make a payment of more than £500. This meant that, under electoral law, these donations did not have to be declared.
However, the party also prohibited donors from leaving personal details to check against the electoral register, leaving the system wide open to receiving impermissible donations – either from overseas or the laundering of larger, impermissible donations into smaller permissible ones by using different PayPal accounts.
The probability of there being no impermissible donations… is less than one in one thousand.Dr Kaustubh Adhikari,Open University
Thanks to Byline Times’ investigation, and criticism from various quarters including the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown mocking Farage as the “man of the PayPal”, the elections watchdog, the Electoral Commission, decided to make an emergency visit to the Brexit Party headquarters on the 21 May to ensure that it had complied with electoral law relating to donations.
The results of this visit were stranger still.
One in a Thousand
In its quarterly donation report to the Electoral Commission covering April to June, the Brexit Party reported no prohibited donations for any of the first 51 days of the quarter up until the watchdog’s visit.
The next six days were unprecedented, in that they contained impermissible donations amounting to 10% of the entire total for the previous decade for all UK parties.
This pattern of reported donations was like nothing ever seen since the Electoral Commission was founded.
This cluster of illegal donations started appearing the day after the Electoral Commission visited the Brexit Party headquarters, when the party was told to urgently modify its system to start properly identifying and recording impermissible donations.
Dr Kaustubh Adhikari, lecturer in statistics at the Open University, examined this pattern using statistical models.
“If we assume the same rate of impermissible donations as reported after the Electoral Commission visit,” Dr Adhikari told Byline Times “the probability of there being no impermissible donations before this visit is less than one in one thousand.”
In other words, it is 99.9% likely that Farage’s new Brexit Party is hiding the truth about its unlawful funding.
There are no coincidences in politics.Ian Lucas MP
Having monitored other parties during that period, Dr Adhikari noted: “All other parties had consistent reporting patterns throughout the period.”
Since it is almost certain that these electoral offences were committed, in the interests of transparency, the UK public needs to see exactly what this system was hiding.
PayPal Has the Answer
PayPal is due to appear before Parliament’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport Committee on 4 November.
It has the ability to pinpoint and locate all of the internet addresses and payment sources of donors to the Brexit Party and could quickly determine whether more impermissible overseas or over-sized donations were laundered through its system by pretending to be multiple donors.
Dr Laurence Godfrey, an expert IT witness in English court cases told Byline Times: “Since all the donations were made via Paypal, within a narrow and recent time window, the records are unusually amenable to forensic examination in respect of donors’ true identities, geographical locations, and eligibility from the perspective of statutory permissibility.”
Ian Lucas MP, a leading member of the DCMS committee told Byline Times: “There are no coincidences in politics. I want to explore with PayPal the sources of donations before the ElectoralCommission visited and will expect them to provide that information. Identifying overseas donations is an issue which has interested me throughout the Committee’s inquiries.”
If electoral offences have been committed, PayPal holds evidence which could establish whether the Brexit Party has broken the law. As the largest UK party in the European Parliament, and with a profound influence on the Government’s policy towards Brexit, the public interest in establishing if the funding behind the Brexit Party was legal is urgent.
The Electoral Commission told Byline Times that it could not comment while its investigations are ongoing. The Brexit Party has been contacted for a response.