A leading Brexiteer think tank is being investigated over links to Russia

The Legatum Institute has become the latest organisation to be investigated over links to Russia, amid growing claims of Kremlin interference in the EU referendum.

They regularly hold meetings with government. Brexit Minister Steve Baker has called them the ‘UK’s leading voice of pragmatic free trade’ and praised them in Parliament. The FT describe them as being at the intellectual heart of ‘hard Brexit’.

Step forward, the Legatum Institute. Despite being officially based in the Cayman Islands, they have significant clout in domestic UK policy as a rapidly free-market think tank.

As records show, they have met with everyone from Lord Bridges of Hedley (a Brexit Minister until June) to David Davis himself – the latter having spoken at their conference this year.

And now? They are being investigated for alleged links to Russia. 

The Times reports today:

“Concerns have been raised about links between the Legatum Institute and the Brexit department and the background of the think tank’s main financier and founder, Christopher Chandler, a New Zealand-born tycoon who made part of his fortune with his company, Legatum Group, via investments in Russia.”

If none of this sounds very, umm, British, for a pro-Brexit think tank, you might be right.

Now the Charity Commission is launching a probe as to whether the Institute is being run within its stated objectives to “advance the education of the public in national and international political, social and economic policy.”

The Charity Commission aren’t the only ones putting them under the spotlight. Dominic Grieve, Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, has now said he will “scope” the institute, as part of preparations for investigation into Russian activities against the UK, according to The Sunday Times.

Anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller has welcomed the developments:

The Parliamentary probe comes off the back of Labour’s Ben Bradshaw urging the Intelligence and Security Committee to investigate the group last month. It seems that request is now being heeded.

When it comes to Russian interference in Brexit however, it’s starting to look like there’s plenty more to look at. As Molly Scott Cato MEP wrote for Left Foot Forward:

“There is mounting evidence of links between British politicians and the Russian government.

“We now know there were over 156,000 Russian-based Twitter accounts engaged in a concerted campaign to support the Leave side.

“The Electoral Commission has also launched an investigation into whether donations and loans from Brexit campaigner Arron Banks and one of his companies broke campaign finance rules in the run-up to the EU referendum.”

The Kremlin’s alleged influence on UK politics is facing some serious challenges – and many hard-Brexiteer politicians could be implicated.

We look forward to seeing what comes out of it all…

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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