Shareholder democracy
Brexit Party, Issue 1515
THREE'S COMPANY! Mehrtash A'zami, Nigel Farage and Richard Tice
THE Brexit Party was always a creature of Nigel Farage, but those voting for it at the recent election – enabling the Tories to take many northern constituencies – might not have realised to what extent.

The party was set up a year go, unusually and controversially as a limited company owned by its shareholders. But at least the single share that was issued was held (by its original leader before Farage signed up, Catherine Blaiklock, and treasurer Michael McGough) as trustees, presumably for some greater benefit. That was the picture given by the latest return at Companies House anyway.

It wasn’t, however, accurate. On a visit to inspect The Brexit Party Ltd’s corporate register, current treasurer Mehrtash A’zami told an Eye hack that no trust had actually been set up. This left the shares in a company that was accumulating large amounts of income in individuals’ hands; and meant the party’s filings at Companies House through two major forthcoming elections were inaccurate.

Never a democratic paragon
In early May, with Blaiklock and McGough gone (over Islamophobia and anti-Semitism respectively), the share was transferred to Nigel Farage. He was also issued with a couple more, while his deputy Richard Tice received one, making Farage the majority shareholder. Further share issues in September left the party campaigning for the general election firmly under the pair’s control. From this point, of 15 shares in issue, Farage has owned 8 and Tice 5 with one more each in the hands of A’zami and the party’s head of campaigning, Paul Oakden.

The Brexit Party set-up was never a democratic paragon, offering no chance to vote for a leader, for example. But the corporate set-up also gives the same leader control over a large amount of money. Electoral Commission records show that in its short lifetime the party/company has received £8.6m in donations – and that’s just from those giving more than the registrable amount of £500.

Most of the money – £6.5m given between the end of October and the December election – came from Thailand-based cryptocurrency investor Christopher Harborne. The party has also claimed to have more than 100,000 registered supporters, paying £25 a time; and it set up other fundraising initiatives, such as £100 a month to join the Brexit Party “club”. Concerned these arrangements might attract impermissible donors, last May the Electoral Commission decided to review the party’s funding system. A commission spokesman told the Eye it was “in ongoing contact with them about our recommendations following our visit to their offices prior to the European Parliamentary elections”.

Misusing EU funds
With the party fielding candidates in just 275 constituencies in the general election, but unlikely to have spent anything like the £30,000 limit in most, there could be plenty left in the kitty. Since the shares are “ordinary” shares, each giving “one vote, and full rights to dividends and capital distributions (including upon winding up)”, those donors have put their money at the behest of one Nigel Farage. The wisdom of this may be open to question, given Farage’s record with money. A couple of years ago he was fined £35,000 for misusing EU funds as an MEP, paying an assistant for non-EU work.

The Eye asked party treasurer A’zami – an accountant with a string of exotic companies behind him in such diverse areas as complementary cancer care, human hair trading and artificial intelligence, many opening and dissolving before filing accounts – what controls are in place over the use of the money. Answer came there none.

More top stories in the latest issue:

Former PM Theresa May to cash in by addressing a conference of dodgy derivatives traders (shurely ‘structured finance experts’? Ed) in Las Vegas.

Why the bizarre government decision to involve Huawei in the UK’s new 5G network is a triumph for China’s Xi Jinping – and Finsbury PR’s Roland Rudd.

Forget the Huawei hoo-ha: China probably knows all it needs to already about sensitive UK infrastructure thanks to the involvement of its nuke builder CGN in the UK industry.

If hapless Prince Harry really wants to be so ‘progressive’, why rub shoulders with the likes of Mozambique’s President Nyusi and put the event on Instagram?

Despite the big bribery fine for Airbus, it’s far from being the only company doing dodgy business abroad with taxpayer support from UK Export Finance.

Red faces at real-estate giant JLL, which listed Wuhan as one of the world’s most dynamic, go-getting cities just as it emerged as the coronavirus epicentre.

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Next issue on sale: 18th February 2020
Private Eye Issue 1515
In This Issue
‘We shall fight them on the bleaches’ screams Daily Telegraph from White Cliffs of Dover… Wills in Bafta storm over Royal Family’s diversity record… Turn your Private Eye into an anti-virus mask… ‘Crisps should be free,’ insists BBC top earner Gary Vinegar… Millions quarantined in Xinjiang province as China fights ‘Muslim virus’… Iowa picks Democrat candidate best placed to lose to Donald Trump… US trade deal founders on haggling over Anne Sacoolas-Prince Andrew swop…

A Glorious Day of Drivel

Church News
No sex please, we’re bishops

Grenfell latest
The buck stops nowhere

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18th February 2020
Private Eye Issue 1514