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Analysis

Whistleblower claims Leave.EU may have broken law

by Hugo Dixon | 17.04.2018

Arron Banks’ insurance company and UKIP shared data with Leave.EU, the pro-Brexit campaign backed by Nigel Farage, Cambridge Analytica’s former business development director has said in testimony to MPs.  Brittany Kaiser claims Leave.EU may have thereby broken the law.

Leave.EU described Kaiser’s evidence as “fake news, lies and more lies” in a tweet.

Kaiser, who sat next to Banks at the launch of Leave.EU, is the fourth whistleblower to allege wrongdoing by the Leave campaign. She has backed up her oral testimony with a pile of documents (1, 2 and 3) as well as emails, which have yet to be published.

Brittany Kaiser of Cambridge Analytica, Arron Banks, Gerry Gunster and Liz Bilney at the launch of the Leave.EU campaigning organisation in London, November 18, 2015

From right to left: Brittany Kaiser of Cambridge Analytica, Arron Banks, Gerry Gunster and Liz Bilney at the launch of the Leave.EU campaign in London, November 18, 2015 (Reuters)

Shahmir Sanni and Mark Gettleson, who both worked for Vote Leave, have produced evidence and claim cheating by the official campaign fronted by Boris Johnson. Chris Wylie, the original Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, has made damning allegations about both Vote Leave and the rival Leave.EU campaigns.

Key claims

Kaiser’s most explosive allegations concern data sharing between Banks’ insurance company, Eldon Insurance which goes by the brand GoSkippy, UKIP and Leave.EU.

She says that when Cambridge Analytica (CA) first talked to Leave.EU, the campaign didn’t have much data, so CA looked at UKIP membership data instead. It used that to devise five personality types to help target messages that would persuade people to back Brexit. The results were shared with Leave.EU.

Banks then asked CA to design a more ambitious strategy to work on using data from all three entities – Leave.EU, UKIP and Eldon. The analytics company pitched a plan to do this which would in total have cost £808,100.

CA document provided as evidence to DCMS committee (Parliament)

At around the same time, Kaiser went to Leave.EU’s headquarters in Bristol, which was also Eldon’s HQ. In her written testimony she says: “When we were with the call centre team, we enquired on the databases being used for the calls, which I was told were from the insurance company. It seemed to me that the datasets and the staff were being used for Eldon/GoSkippy Insurance as well as Leave.EU in parallel.”

Kaiser says CA never executed on this broader strategy for Leave.EU. Instead, she claims Banks bragged that he copied CA’s ideas and executed this via a company he had set up in America called Big Data Dolphins. She says it worked with the data science team at the University of Mississippi.

Finally, Kaiser says Banks never paid CA the £41,500 bill for the initial work with UKIP data, despite being told by Leave.EU that this was a firm commitment. The Observer has already reported it has obtained an invoice from CA for £41,500 for work done on behalf of UKIP. It also says a donation of £42,000 was made by Leave.EU to UKIP one week before the referendum.

A UKIP spokesman told the Observer: “We got the money from Arron [Banks]. But we never paid it to Cambridge Analytica. We didn’t think it was worth it. It was preparatory work, a pitch.”

Allegations of wrongdoing

Kaiser believes Leave.EU may have broken the law in three ways.

First, she thinks data protection law may have been broken:

“If the personal data of UK citizens who just wanted to buy car insurance was used by GoSkippy and Eldon Insurance for political purposes, as may have been the case, people clearly did not opt in for their data to be used in this way by Leave.EU. I have similar concerns about whether UKIP members consented to the use of their data.”

Second, she said:

“If the Mississippi team has held or processed UK citizens’ data in the US, I believe that is likely to be a criminal offence; although it is for the empowered authorities to pursue any such question and secure the associated evidence.”

Finally, she thinks UK electoral law may have been broken because “to the best of my knowledge, our work with UKIP and Leave.EU never made it into any report to the Electoral Commission”.

Alexander Nix, CA’s former chief executive, had been due to  give testimony to MPs tomorrow. His lawyers have said he can’t. The chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee is considering issuing a summons.

InFacts approached Leave.EU, Eldon Insurance, UKIP and Arron Banks for comment on Kaiser’s allegations. Leave.EU chief Andy Wigmore directed InFacts to the group’s press release. InFacts had received no responses from any of the other parties at time of publication.

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The order of words in the first para was changed on April 18

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

One Response to “Whistleblower claims Leave.EU may have broken law”

  • High time that the Police Fraud Squad starting investigating the activities of this character Banks and the financial dealings of the whole Leave campaign.