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By Jason Michael
THE SIMPLEST EXPLANATION, says Ockham’s razor, is usually the truth. When we look at what is unfolding to be the biggest political scandal in living memory – the Brexit dark money scandal – we are presented with two explanations; one fantastically convoluted story involving a number of right-wing figures, senior British Conservative politicians , key people in the Trump campaign, the Kremlin, an insane amount of money, coincidence and rank incompetence, and a public relations firm, and another exposed by The Guardian and The New York Times which zetetically follows the money and links all the dots. Nothing about this story is particularly easy to follow, but then we were never supposed to follow it. We weren’t meant to know about it.
In order to break this down it is probably best that we start from the beginning, where all the evidence suggests the dark money started its journey to the Brexit campaign – Russia. Our first player is the former vice-chair of the Scottish Conservative Party and Westminster parliamentary candidate Richard Cook. He is the only named member of the shady Constitutional Research Council, the unregistered political organisation that donated £435,000 to the DUP’s “Vote to Leave” Brexit campaign, the largest political donation in the history of Northern Ireland. As an unregistered donor, by giving more than £2,500 to a campaign it has broken the law.
Brexit Dark Money is still the biggest story in Ireland. It is a massive story all around the world. Why is a reshu… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) July 01, 2018
Cook presented himself as a political candidate with a solid environmental record, having been the director of a multinational recycling and waste management company. He was nothing of the sort. Shipping records show his company, DDR Recycling Ltd., to be largely a shell created for the purposes of illicitly exporting rubber waste to India, making him something of an “international fly-tipper” according to Jim Murphy. His dodgy business practices took him to Ukraine in 2013 during the time of the pro-Russian regime, where, with the help of another phantom company and a heap of fictitious contracts, he was paid to recycle thousands of tonnes of old railway track. The work was never done, but he was being paid by another bogus company owned by a German criminal living in Kiev with links to Russia.
By 2014 the Russian money was in play, ready to play its part in the total subversion of British and possibly US democracy. We have two people in Britain linked to the game plan; the money launderer Richard Cook and the then Prime Minister David Cameron, who intervened in Cook’s general election campaign in East Renfrewshire in Scotland – selling him as the Tory environmental option – and who put the EU referendum on the table [exit Mr Cameron, stage left].
This money, owing to the law of elections in the UK and the risk of raising suspicions, could not be spent in one campaign. To get around this a number of Leave campaigns were launched, bringing together all the other UK players; Arron Banks – the director of Leave.EU, Nigel Farage – the leader of UKIP, the DUP – with its Vote to Leave campaign in Northern Ireland, and Cook himself – as chief donor to and director of spending for the DUP from the CRC in Scotland. Immediately it is obvious that at least Arron Banks, Richard Cook, and the DUP are operating an undeclared common plan, an illegal arrangement in which all three are working in concert and in secret on the Leave side of the EU referendum. It takes another player to unite this group to Mr Farage – Alexander Yakovenko; the Russian Ambassador to the UK named by the FBI Mueller investigation as “a high-level intermediary between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.”
Scottish journalist Adam Ramsey is the first during the campaign to flag the use of money donated to the DUP in Northern Ireland being used in Scotland. Rather than Vote Leave, he discovered DUP activists on the streets of Edinburgh handing out printed Vote to Leave – DUP – printed material, something the small Democratic Unionist Party typically could not afford. But more was to come. The DUP paid £280,000 for a four-page wrap-around cover ad in the London Metro – five times what the party spent in the previous general election. For a small party it was spending far beyond what anyone could expect. In fact, it spent in excess of £425,000 in the referendum campaign outside of Northern Ireland.
The DUP was used as a dark money vehicle to slosh extra £££ into Vote Leave's campaign. This tweet tells you everyt… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) June 27, 2018
What’s more, is that neither the DUP’s secretary nor its treasurer knew the source of the donation – a cool £435,000, and neither was the party in charge of spending it; that had been handed over to Richard Cook and the CRC in Scotland – it was him who arranged the Metro ad – while senior DUP campaigners were seconded to the British Vote Leave campaign and the DUP’s own campaign was effectively run – given the cross-pollinisation of staff – as a Vote Leave shell company.
It is interesting too that all of these supposedly independent campaigns found and enlisted the help of a Canadian public relations firm, Aggregate IQ – an almost unknown and unlisted data analytics company that operated without a website. Until recently the involvement of this company was at best circumstantial evidence of common purpose, but that all changed when social media giant Facebook, in a deposition to the US government, revealed it shared personnel and “billing and administration connections” with Cambridge Analytica – effectively completing a circle linking Russian dark money to Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and a number of campaigns across Europe now widely believed to have been a joint US-Russian effort to destabilise the European Union.
David Cameron, we have noticed, vanished rather smartish from this woeful tale, but the connection of this Russian plot to senior members of the Conservative Party does not end with him. In late 2017 The Guardian uncovered details of a meeting between former Trump advisor Steve Bannon and Jacob Rees-Mogg in London. At this meeting, brokered by Raheem Kassam – London editor of Breitbart and Nigel Farage’s former chief of staff, the two men discussed how the “conservative movements” can win back control of the US and the UK. There is undoubtedly a thread of common purpose running not only through the Leave side of the Brexit campaign, but through the most influential circles of the right-wing conservative movements in the US, the UK, and Europe. Behind all this there is a trail of cash linking all the players – through bogus trading, money laundering, and Russian spies and diplomats – to the Kremlin.
Brexit – Dark Money and the DUP