Arron Banks sues journalist after claims he had ‘covert relationship with Russian government’

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  • Arron Banks
    English businessman
  • Carole Cadwalladr
    British investigative journalist and writer
Arron Banks claims investigative journalist launched 'calculated and deliberate attack' - Martyn Wheatley / i-Images/i-Images Picture Agency
Arron Banks claims investigative journalist launched 'calculated and deliberate attack' - Martyn Wheatley / i-Images/i-Images Picture Agency

A prominent Brexit backer has accused an investigative journalist of spreading “nonsense” in a personal attack on him, as he sues her for defamation.

Arron Banks, a major donor to the Leave.EU campaign, has brought a libel claim against Observer and Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr.

Ms Cadwalladr said in a TED Talk and a tweet in 2019 that he had told “lies ... about his covert relationship with the Russian government”.

Mr Banks was one of a number of individuals investigated by the National Crime Agency over the £8 million loaned to the Leave campaign – the biggest donation in British political history.

It found no evidence of any criminal offences being committed and Mr Banks strongly denies accepting any money from the Russian Government. The NCA concluded that Mr Banks was the true source of the funds, being the ultimate beneficial owner of the company who made the loan to him.

Mr Banks, 55, said in his witness statement submitted to the High Court in London: “Carole was a high profile investigative journalist who had won awards for her work on Cambridge Analytica and matters relating to the EU referendum, and here she was telling the world that I had lied about a secret relationship with the Russians over Brexit funding. This was nonsense and it went too far.”

Investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr used Ted Talk to make claims about Arron Banks - Martyn Wheatley / i-Images/i-Images Picture Agency
Investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr used Ted Talk to make claims about Arron Banks - Martyn Wheatley / i-Images/i-Images Picture Agency

The businessman said he thought Ms Cadwalladr made the remarks due to “personal animus”, adding: “This was a calculated and deliberate attack upon me.”

Mr Banks’s claim is being heard at the High Court this week.

While he said he expected some personal criticism due to his involvement in the Leave campaign, he argued that there are “boundaries that must be observed”.

His witness statement added: “I consider it wrong for untrue statements to be made which give a false and seriously damaging account to unsuspecting members of the public, who may not be aware of the truth, who will then be misinformed.

“This is why I have continued with my action against Carole in relation to the untrue and highly defamatory statements she made about me in the TED Talk and repeated in the tweet.”

‘No hidden agenda’

Mr Banks was questioned on Friday by lawyers for Ms Cadwalladr, who asked what he expected the nature of the meeting to be when he was invited to the Russian Ambassadors’ residence in 2015.

He said: “I thought that if there was an invitation to visit the Russian ambassador then it would be very interesting. I certainly wasn’t overthinking it the way you are suggesting. I didn’t automatically think there was a hidden agenda.”

Lawyers for Ms Cadwalladr said she did not intend to allege that Banks had received funding from the Russian government in relation to the Brexit campaign, and that her comments were “part of a discussion about matters of the highest public interest”. Ms Cadwalladr is running a public interest defence and is not alleging that her statement was true.

The case continues on Monday.

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