The BBC has defended a decision to book controversial Leave.EU campaign donor Arron Banks for the Andrew Marr show – despite the millionaire being under investigation by the National Crime Agency.
Banks is being investigated over claims he had hid the source of illegal overseas donations used to fund the referendum campaign. He has denied any wrongdoing.
The BBC has allowed the businessman and political donor the opportunity to respond to the allegations on its biggest Sunday political programme.
It tweeted: ‘Sunday Arron Banks will respond to National Crime Agency investigation into campaign funding during Brexit referendum @Arron_banks.’
The decision has been criticised by leading Remain campaigners.
Jo Maugham from the Good Law Project tweeted: ‘Good of @BBCPolitics to ensure that no one accused by a regulator of serious criminality and undermining our democracy is left without a major broadcast platform. Up next, Harvey Weinstein on how young actresses were desperate to sleep with him for a career leg-up.’
The campaign group Lawyers Against Brexit said the Marr show appearance would be ‘prejudicial reporting’.
It tweeted: ‘There is a real risk that prejudicial reporting can disrupt a trial process. An investigation into an alleged crime, which would if proved amount to interference with UK democracy should be treated with the utmost sensitivity by national media. BBC approach is highly problematic.’
Lord Adonis has written to the director general of the BBC urging him to ‘rescind the invitation’.
He said: ‘This appears to be me to be a very serious editorial misjudgment, influenced by a culture of accommodation of extreme Brexiters now deeply embedded in the BBC.’
The broadcaster responded to the criticisms in a statement.
It said: ‘There is a strong public interest in an interview with Arron Banks about allegations of funding irregularities in relation to Leave.EU and the 2016 EU referendum. The Electoral Commission has laid out concerns about this in public and it is legitimate and editorially justified for Andrew Marr to question Mr Banks robustly about them.’