Electoral watchdog to review Brexit Party finances after Gordon Brown raises concerns over PayPal payments from abroad

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

The Electoral Commission has said it will visit the headquarters of Nigel Farage's Brexit Party on Tuesday to review its finances.

The probe comes after former prime minister Gordon Brown raised allegations over PayPal payments and urged the commission to look into the legality of the party's funding ahead of the European elections on Thursday.

Mr Brown alleged there were risks democracy was being damaged if the Brexit Party was allowed to accept foreign and untraceable donations via the online payments service.

Political gifts of under £500, whether made via PayPal or another route, do not have to be declared.

Mr Brown voiced his concerns during a Labour rally in Glasgow and claimed the Brexit Party was a private company made up of shareholders adding: ''You can pay to this party in Russian roubles, American dollars, Malaysian ringgit and, of course, probably to his disdain, euros as well.''

Mr Farage accused the former premier of an “absolutely disgusting smear” against his party.

He told supporters in Wakefield, Yorkshire, on Monday that money for the party had been raised by 110,000 people paying £25 each.

Asked by ITV News if he was 100 per cent confident he had not received a single penny from foreign donations, Mr Farage replied: ''I can be 99 per cent confident.''

  • Watch ITV News Correspondent Daniel Hewitt challenge Nigel Farage about Brexit Party donations

Mr Brown said that democracy could be undermined if payments to the party were not declared.

An Electoral Commission spokesman said: “The Brexit Party, like all registered political parties, has to comply with laws that require any donation it accepts of over £500 to be from a permissible source.

“It is also subject to rules for reporting donations, loans, campaign spending and end of year accounts. We have already been talking to the party about these issues.

Mr Brown said democracy was being undermined Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

“As part of our active oversight and regulation of these rules, we are attending the Brexit Party’s office tomorrow to conduct a review of the systems it has in place to receive funds, including donations over £500 that have to be from the UK only.

“If there’s evidence that the law may have been broken, we will consider that in line with our Enforcement Policy."

Gordon Brown said that an investigation must be carried out into the finances of Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

Mr Brown told the Labour rally: “The Electoral Commission and the European Parliament should now investigate the finances of Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party.

“Democracy is undermined when we have undeclared, unreported, untraceable payments being made to the Brexit Party.

“We have the potential for underhand and under-the-counter payments being made.

“You know the history of this – Leave.EU, Nigel Farage and Arron Banks’ campaign is now under criminal investigation.

“There’s three investigations – one by the National Crime Agency, one by the Met Police and one by the Information Commissioner."

Both Mr Banks and Mr Farage have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Brown spoke out during a campaign visit to Glasgow Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

Mr Brown raised concerns over the method of payment used to process donations by supporters of the party.

He said: “Now we find the Brexit Party that has been formed is not a party, it’s actually a private company. It doesn’t have members, it has shareholders.

“The key shareholder, with the controlling interest, is Nigel Farage. And you pay money not to become a member, but to become a supporter, and you pay through PayPal and you cannot discover whether the money is coming from foreign sources or British sources."

Businessman Arron Banks gave £450,000 in payments to support Nigel Farage. Credit: PA

Mr Brown added: “If this election is about trust in democracy, the Electoral Commission has the power before Thursday to tell us if they’ve had questions answered about where the money is coming from, who is giving the money, whether the money is coming from foreign sources, including America and Russia, and whether rules are being broken.

“This is a not a party in the ordinary sense, this is a private company. It’s run by Nigel Farage, donations go through PayPal, and he’s not going to be remembered as he wants, as the man of the people.

"He’ll be remembered as the man of the PayPal, because that’s where the money’s coming from.”

Mr Brown continued by challenging the Electoral Commission to indicate before Thursday whether they are investigating, or if questions on the “dubious issues” around such transactions had been answered.

He said: “Democracy is ill-served and trust in democracy will continue to be undermined if we have no answers to where the money is coming from and why these declarations to the European Parliament have never been made.”

Nigel Farage accused Mr Brown of trying to smear the Brexit Party. Credit: PA

Mr Farage accused the former premier of an “absolutely disgusting smear” against his party.

“This from the man who was part of a Labour Party who, through Lord Levy, were making a lot of big donors members of the House of Lords,” Mr Farage said on a campaign visit to Exeter.

“How dare he? Most of our money has been raised by people giving £25 to become registered supporters and nearly 110,000 of them now have done that.

“Frankly, this smacks of jealousy because the other parties simply can’t do this.

“How open can we be? What you have got here are the conspiracy theorists doing their utmost to try and delegitimise what is the fastest-growing political movement this country has ever seen.”