Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has called for the Electoral Commission to investigate after a probe into the DUP’s Brexit donation uncovered allegations of illegal activity and coordination of campaigns.
The investigation by the BBC’s Spotlight programme alleged Richard Cook, the chair of DUP donors the Constitutional Research Council (CRC), shipped illegal tyre waste to India in 2009, presenting fake documents to authorities and leaving a shipping company with a bill of more than £1 million. He was also accused of signing a multi-million-dollar contract in Ukraine in 2013, supposedly for the purchase of used railway tracks, but the person behind the company was a convicted fraudster. Mr Cook denied involvement in both.
It was also alleged Vote Leave and the DUP had coordinated their campaigns. Evidence alleging DUP Councillor Lee Reynolds was the main contact for Cambridge Analytica in the DUP whilst seconded to Vote Leave and Richard Cook himself booked the infamous Metro adverts in Great Britain was also presented. Both Councillor Reynolds and Mr Cook deny those allegations.
“There have been a number of serious allegations surrounding the donation from the CRC to the DUP during the Brexit campaign and these latest revelations will only add to the legitimate questions people have,” said Mrs Long.
“The Electoral Commission need to fully investigate any potential breaches of electoral law. If we don’t pursue such issues, we allow democracy to be subverted, which is contrary to the interests of everyone in society. That is particularly the case in the Brexit referendum, given the subsequent damage to the UK economy and ongoing risk posed to our prosperity and security due to potential changes at the Irish border.
“Alliance recently raised with the Electoral Commission comments from the DUP saying it wasn’t their problem to identify the original source of the donation. That is simply wrong. In law, party treasurers must ensure not only is the donor legitimate but the original source of the donation is also permissible. That due diligence is a legal requirement.
“The coordination of campaigns is also forbidden as it allows the rules on spending limits to be subverted. The information presented last night raises major issues which I believe pass the threshold to justify a detailed investigation by the Electoral Commission.
“Even last night, the details of this donation and any others which the CRC may have made could not be fully scrutinised due to secrecy covering pre-July 2017 donations. My amendment to legislation while an MP enabled details of any large donation to a local party dating back to 2014 to be revealed. However, the UK Government and DUP changed the date to exclude that crucial period and only donations from 2017 have been made public. MPs can and must to act to reinstate the original date and make sure full transparency is achieved.”