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31 May 2016

The Ukip-Russia Connection: Is Someone 'Putin' Cash In Farage's Pockets?

We start with a pretty simple question. And the question is this:
How is Ukip managing to survive, financially ... when by all reasonable calculations they can't be even solvent?
[Update, August 2016: It is confirmed that Ukip are £850,000 in the red.]
[Update, October 2016: Debt is now estimated at £910,000.]
[Update, January 2017: Debt is now estimated at £1,188,000.]



To start the thread that leads to the answer, we have to look East. To Moscow.



Here's Why Putin Is Funding Far-Right And Anti-EU Groups in Europe

Since the fall of the Soviet Union (1991), Vladimir Putin, who has had effective power in various guises in Russia since 1999, has had dreams of recreating the nation as a super power once again, and a player on the world stage.

Putin has been busy promoting his vision for a rival Eurasian Union. This is an alternative political bloc meant to encompass now-independent Soviet republics, with Moscow rather than Brussels as the dominant pole.

Russia's biggest, nearest competitor in this? Europe, and the EU, as set out in the definative work on the subject, "Russia vs. the EU: The Competition for Influence in Post-Soviet States" by Jakob Tolstrup.

As former NSA Analyst and Security Expert John Schindler said:
"For Putin to achieve his easily decipherable strategic aims - dividing NATO and bringing the European Union to heel while keeping the United States on the margins, thereby assuring Moscow’s free hand in Eastern Europe and restoring Russian greatness - he must demoralize and divide those in Europe who seek to challenge rebounding Russian influence in Europe and hegemony in the East."
Putin will do anything he can to destabilise the EU, he knows the methods well, he has the illegally gotten funds to do it, and there are solid paper trails to show records of it.
"Russian influence in the affairs of the Far Right is now a “phenomenon seen all over Europe
"Wherever the opportunity presents itself, Russia wants to undermine the West – to present the argument that the West is no better than they are. It wants to see an end of the European Union because it much prefers a policy of divide and rule."

Mainstream Media Are Fully Aware Of This

This issue has already reached mainstream media - and senior "British Government Officials" have described it as 'The New Cold War'. Putin already funds and supports anti EU groups across Europe. This is not a secret - it's openly discussed in the media:

The Telegraph: "Russia accused of clandestine funding of European parties" 
The Independent: "How Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU"
The Guardian: "We should beware Russia’s links with Europe’s right"
The Economist: "In The Kremlin's Pocket"
The Financial Times: "To Russia with love, from Europe’s far-right fringe"
Bloomberg: "Why Europe's Far Right Is Getting Cozy With Russia"
The Business Insider: "Putin Is Infiltrating European Politics With Shocking Effectiveness"
Centre For Policy Studies: "Russian sponsorship of the European far right"
World Affairs Journal: "Strange Bedfellows: Putin and Europe’s Far Right"
Council On Foreign Relations: "Putin's Western Allies - Why Europe's Far Right Is on the Kremlin's Side"
BBC: "Is Vladimir Putin really trying to break up the EU?"



So Here's Who Putin Is Funding And Supporting

France: Front National (FN) and Generation Identitaire (probably)
Germany : National Democratic Party (NPD), Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Pegida (probably)
Hungary: Jobbik and other smaller groups
Greece: Syriza and Golden Dawn
Poland: Národní Koalice (National Coalition)
Italy: Northern League (Lega Norde) and Forza Nuova (probably)
Slovakia: People’s Party
Bulgaria: Attack Party
Macedonia: VMRO
Finland: Finns Party aka Perussuomalaiset
Belgium: Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest)
Spain: Partido Popular and Plataforma per Catalunya

Many other groups are suspected, if not being funded directly, of having material support and financial links with Putin and Russia, or of having key individuals having personal financial support, as the Kremlin has a policy of providing “fees” of various kinds to individual politicians rather than direct, traceable financial support to their parties. This Policy is known as 'Kremlin Dark Money'.


So What Does Putin Get From This Funding?

Apart from destabilizing Europe, Putin gets support in the EU for his policies (Ukraine, Crimea), defense of Russian human rights abuses, opposition to sanctions against Russia, and key people in key positions.

He even used some of his European Far-Right politicians as 'observers' in the corrupt Crimea Referendum on Union with Russia. They all declared it 'fair, legitimate and exemplary' of course.

This follows Putin's statement in 2013 that the Russian Elections were 'monitored' by a then British MEP. They didn't mention it was Nick Griffin of the BNP.

For example, the umbrella group of all far-right parties across the EU is the Alliance of European National Movements. It's President is MEP Béla Kovács of the Hungarian radical nationalist Jobbik Party.
Bela Kovacs, top Nationalist in EU
and almost certainly a
Russian 'agent provocateur'

The Hungarian government has accused him of spying for the Russians. In 2014, Hungarian Prosecutors asked the EU to suspend Kovács's MEP immunity. The EU did so on October 14, 2015 and he is currently under intense investigation.

Kovács father served in the Russian Military, he has a Russian wife (KGB acording to journalist Dezső András) and he has been watched by the CIA since 2009. Because his birth certificate has been radically altered, no-one's even sure who is really is.

And right now, he's Putin's man at the top of the European Nationalist Tree.


The USA Is Worried, To Say The Least

James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence, has been instructed by the US Congress to conduct a major review into Russian clandestine funding of European parties over the last decade, in order to "undermine NATO, block US missile defence programmes and revoke the punitive economic sanctions regime imposed after the annexation of Crimea".


Ukip Are The Obvious Targets For Putin's Cash

So, what of Ukip?

Surely, Ukip are the major player in Anti EU activities right now? They hold more MEPs than any other anti EU group and get more publicity, yes, even in European media. But it is inconceivable that Putin would pass up an opportunity to fund, dictate certain policies to, and make certain demands of Ukip.

For Putin, Ukip would be the prize fighter in the team.

Would Ukip get in bed with Putin? Of course. We know from previous that Ukip and Farage will link with anyone they can, regardless of extremism, to secure cash to keep Ukip going. Neo-Fascist? Sure. Racists? Yes. Long history of Nazi support? If they have money, of course.


So How Bad Is The Financial Hole Ukip Find Themselves In?

Bad. And deep. Very deep.

Ukip candidates in the GE2015 generally had to fund their own campaigns, as Ukip targetted 95% of their valuable resources on just 5 constituencies (including Nigel in Thanet, of course). They believed this 'playing the FPTP system' would get them 3 MPs, and more Westminster Short Money. In the end, they got 1 seat, Douglas Carswells, and he rejected the excess Short Money, to Farage's anger. Nigel was relying on that - not for Westminster expenses, but for the Party.

Since then Ukip candidates at elections at all levels have generally had to fund their own campaigns, with the exception of the few candidates who are friends of Farage. Example: In Wales, Mark Reckless and Nathan Gill got party funds: Neil Hamilton did not. In London, Peter Whittle got some (not very much) whike GLA candidates were all self-funded.

Paid Membership is down from a peak (we think) of about 32,500 to 21,800 as of end of March this year. April and May data is not available to us yet. The trend is consistently downwards, and June, we think, will see another massive drop. Reason: Membership jumped in May 2014 at Euro Election time. 85% of those were renewed May 2015. How many will renew again in May 2016? The trend suggests less and less.

[Update - Membership as of Ukip's 2016 Conference now established at about 18.500]

Donors are leaving, prospective donors have either walked away, or are 'waiting to see'. Express's owner, tax-dodging porn baron Richard Desmond is holding back on funding till after the Referendum. Tax-dodging sex-pest Aaron Banks is putting his money into Leave.EU and Grassroots Out, four potential donors just this year have walked away, 2 after Suzanne Evans was victimised, and one after virulent homophobe Alan Craig was selected as a London candidate.

We know of three potential donors in 2015 who walked after too many exposures of racists, islamophobes and homophobes, including the selection of self-confessed muslim hater Anne Marie Waters as a London candidate (she now runs Islamic Hate group PegidaUK with EDL's Tommy Robinson.) One of these walk-away donors was Robin Birley, step-brother to losing Tory Mayor Candidate Zac Goldsmith.

EFDD (the Ukip EU Parliamentary group) money can no longer be 'repatriated' for Ukip use in domestic political activities. Not easily, anyway, not any more, since France's Front National were raided by Fraud Police for doing exactly that.

That investigation is still ongoing, but Front National stand accused of paying staff from EU funds to work in their domestic politics. This is exactly what Ukip do, it's illegal and they have to keep their head down and hope the EU Fraud unit doesn't glance in their direction.

EFDD cash can no longer be spent on Brexit Activities. There was a window when that was allowable, but this ended on 31st of March this year, and is no longer an option. Even when it was allowable, Ukip broke the EU rules and are being investigated for it.

Ukip have had to close down their offices in various locations, including their plush location in London, nd we're aware that their credit rating has gone south, such that applications for tenancies on other London offices were turned down for this reason.

Ukip have had to replace 21 nationwide paid roles with volunteers since October 2014, stating in an internal memo that funds were 'simply not available at this time' but 'volunteers can be assured of priority consideration for candidacy nominations'. Ukip currently also owe 17 members of staff 'back salaries' since December 2015.

So .. the hole is deep. And for Ukip there seems to be nowhere to go.

So Just How, Exactly, Did Ukip Escape Bankruptcy In 2015?

Christopher Mills
They got a 'loan' - a large one - and they needed it.

In July 2015 came the deadline when Ukip had to pay all their General Election 2015 costs, by Electoral Commission rules. 2 days prior to this, they simply didn't have the money.

Suddenly, with 48 hours to spare, they were bailed out by Hedge Fund manager Christopher Mills. He can probbaly afford it, being worth £200m personally (and fighting against European moves to force him to pay tax on it)

But was it actually his money? The strong suggestion from many is that it was not.

Mills has no links to Russia or Putin that we can find - except his regular dealings with a Russian Bank - the same bank that France's Front National got their 'loan' from. That's all we're allowed to say. The loan was publicly stated as 'over £1/3 million' but we hear it's closer to £3m that Ukip actually received. And another £2.5m since, from 'anonymous donors' and 'corporate loans'.

These are loans that Ukip, like France's Front National, have made no provision in their budget for 2016 to repay. It looks to us that they're loans that never need actually need to be repaid.

So the question we're asking is simple. Is the Mills money - and anonymous loans received since - sourced from Russia?

You'd think this funding should be made public, of course, especially as Farage seems insistent that Mosques should declare the source of all their funding.

But Ukip's finances have always been shady. They are the only EU Party that still refuses to allow the independent EU auditors to view their accounts. EU moves to bring greater transparency to party funds were voted against by Ukip MEPs - part of a drive specifically to halt Russian influence in Europe.

The very unique secrecy and complete opaqueness of Ukip's finances mean we can't say for certain.

But an organisation that is publicly accountable doesn't hide it's paymasters for nothing. And a political party doesn't go from near-bankruptcy to relatively solvent overnight without a major injection of cash. Lastly, Ukip have always made a big public relations splash of every major donor .. but not for the Mills money, or any since.

In return, of course, Farage (who has always been an admirer of Putin) has openly stated his view of Putin as the 'world leader he most admires'.

Farage as well as many Ukip MEPs appear all too regularly on the 'Russia Today' news network. - known in UK media circles as 'Putin's Mouthpiece'

He and his MEPs have publicly supported all Russian policies including the invasion of Ukraine, and voted against anti-Russian EU legislation.

Farage's support of Putin has led to Ukip's supporters having a higher regard for Putin than any other UK group - and even Britain First are in a love affair with Putin.

That's Putin's payoff.

In the UK, of course, there are laws in place which prohibit foreign funding of political parties. And any publicly elected official taking money from a foreign power to undermine his country's government is technically guilty of high treason. Perhaps Farage has more to worry about right now than losing the Brexit debate.

Finally, returning to Putin, Russian expert Prof Mitchell Orenstein, head of the Department of Political Science at Boston's Northeastern University, has called for European leaders to investigate external funding of right-wing parting.
“I really do not believe Putin's challenge to Europe is being taken seriously enough. Brussels must begin looking at how these parties are being funded".

“Putin’s doesn’t need to resort to land-grab tactics. He can just sit patiently on the sidelines and watch as the Far Right tries to dismantle the EU once and for all."

Far Right Watch Team

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