The millionaire former Tory donor Arron Banks has announced a tenfold increase in his planned donation to Ukip – to £1m – after William Hague said he had not heard of him.
Arron Banks, who made his fortune in insurance, announced he was increasing his donation from £100,000 in protest at the comments from the leader of the Commons.
The announcement by Banks suggests the Ukip bandwagon – which was earlier this week swelled by the defection of a second Tory MP – has come to a slow, if well-funded, halt.
Party sources had suggested Ukip would make a major announcement, prompting speculation over another defection. Instead, Nigel Farage stood outside the grand West Country residence of the insurance millionaire to announce Banks’s supercharged donation.
The Tories had earlier pointed out that they could find no record of Banks having donated more than around £20,000 to the party over the last 13 years. Party sources challenged Ukip to provide proof for their claim that Banks had been a major Tory donor.
Hague said Banks’s move was timed to unsettle the prime minister on the day of his speech to the final Tory conference before the general election.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, the former Tory leader said: “I’ve never heard of him so we are not going to get too upset about that. It’s certainly not going to overshadow the prime minister’s speech today that someone we haven’t heard of has gone to Ukip.”
Sources close to Ukip indicated that Banks had also loaned £75,417 to Thornbury and Yate Conservative, party through his former company Panacea Finance, in September 2007. The loan is registered on the Electoral Commission website and has to be paid back in 2022. However, Companies House records show that Banks resigned from the company in September 2005, raising questions over whether he was still in control of the company when the loan was handed over.
A spokesman for Farage said Banks had funded the Chipping Sodbury office of the South Gloucestershire Conservatives “to the tune of £250,000”.
The Conservative party agent in Chipping Sodbury, Sonia Williams, told the BBC the support given by Banks was “nothing like the order of magnitude” claimed by Ukip. She said the office in Chipping Sodbury was donated to the party “about 50 years ago”, estimating that the total support given by Banks was “probably around the £22,000 mark”.
Banks, 48, has been registered as a director of 37 companies, three of which have dissolved. He has connections to companies based in Gibraltar and the Isle of Man.
Rock Services Ltd, of which Banks is a director, made a gross profit of £19.7m last year while paying corporation tax of only £12,000. The company deducted £19.6m in “administrative expenses”.
The main activity appears to be “recharge of goods and services” with Southern Rock Insurance Company – a part of the group of companies that is based in Gibraltar. Southern Rock Insurance states on its website that it underwrite policies for the customers of GoSkippy.com, which is run by Banks. Because it is based in Gibraltar, there is little information available on it.
Rock Services and Southern Rock Insurance’s ultimate holding company is Rock Holdings Ltd, a company based on the Isle of Man.
Banks was said by Ukip sources to be entertaining politically connected people from Belize on Wednesday night. He follows the Tory MPs Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell in switching allegiance to Ukip in recent weeks.
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