A leading architect of the Brexit campaign was sensationally accused today of “money laundering” to get around spending limits during the EU referendum.
Whistleblower Christopher Wylie made the bombshell allegation against Dominic Cummings, the campaign director for Vote Leave.
Giving evidence to a Commons committee, Mr Wylie claimed that hundreds of thousands of pounds were funnelled through the BeLeave group to social media tech firm Aggregate IQ (AIQ) as the official Vote Leave group could not spend it due to a £7 million election financial limit.
“AIQ was just used as a proxy money laundering vehicle,” Mr Wylie told the MPs.
“Dom Cummings, he went around and found places that he could just launder money through, to give it to AIQ so that they could overspend. That is my genuinely-held belief. It makes me so angry. To irrevocably alter the constitutional settlement of this country on fraud, is a mutilation of the constitutional settlement.”
Vote Leave is reported to have itself spent £2.7 million on AIQ.
Mr Cummings declined to comment, highlighting his response in a blog post to claims made by Mr Wylie, a Cambridge Analytica (CA) tech specialist who revealed that it had allegedly used the details of tens of millions of Facebook users to target voters for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Mr Cummings wrote: “The EC/ICO [Electoral Commission and Information Commissioner’s Office] inquiries will look at the facts, the completely different stories that the whistleblowers tell each time they appear (their credibility is such that I bet their lawyers won’t let them appear as witnesses), the evidence, and the law.”
Giving evidence to the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee, Mr Wylie said that Aggregate IQ, a Canadian firm employed by Vote Leave to provide targeted marketing during the EU referendum, was set up by SCL Group, a strategic communications company linked to CA.
While internal documents showed that AIQ was effectively a “franchise”, it was advantageous for the two companies to be presented as separate because of the requirement to avoid the appearance of “co-ordination” under US electoral law, he told MPs.
He said he “absolutely” believed that AIQ had drawn on CA databases in the EU referendum campaign, telling the committee: “You can’t have targeting software that doesn’t access the database. Cambridge Analytica would have a database and AIQ would access that database, otherwise the software wouldn’t work.”
But he said it was not clear how a database for UK voters might have been created: “My question is where did you get that data? How do you create a massive targeting operation in a country that AIQ hadn’t previously worked in in two months? It baffles me as to how that could happen in such a short amount of time.”
Amid denials of links between CA and AIQ, Mr Wylie, who has handed a dossier of evidence to the committee, insisted that the latter had built software for CA. He also flatly rejected a previous denial by CA’s suspended boss Alexander Nix that his company had not used Facebook data.
“It’s categorically untrue that CA has never used Facebook data,” he said.
Mr Wylie, 28, also told how AIQ had been involved in a shocking campaign in Nigeria. “AIQ was handed material in Nigeria from Cambridge Analytica to distribute online,” he said.
“That’s distribution of kompromat [compromising material] and also incredibly threatening and violent video content … distributed with the sole intent of intimidating voters, included content with people being dismembered and people having their throats cut.”
In a startling section of his evidence, Mr Wylie said he heard his predecessor had died in suspicious circumstances in a Kenyan hotel after a “deal went sour”. He told the committee: “People suspected that he was poisoned in his hotel room.”
Meanwhile, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg came under fire today for refusing to appear and give evidence before the committee investigating fake news and the harvesting of data.