Pro-Brexit campaign group Leave.EU allegedly forged images claiming to show immigrants committing violent crimes and staged a viral video purporting to show illegal “migrants” before the 2016 referendum.
The group, led by multimillionaire and former UK Independence Party donor Arron Banks, staged a video which the group said showed a migrant easily crossing into the United Kingdom illegally, Channel 4 News reported.
The video went viral after being viewed hundreds of thousands of times on social media, but satellite data showed that the boat in the film had never left British waters, and the footage had been filmed before it left the UK, according to Channel 4’s investigation.
The campaign group, fronted by leading Brexiteer Nigel Farage, is also accused of staging photographs which it said showed a migrant attacking a woman in north London.
The photos purporting to show the violent attack were sent by a special forces veteran working for Banks to Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s then head of communications.
According to leaked emails obtained by Channel 4, Wigmore then forwarded the images to the group’s media team with the message: “Migrants beating up girl in Tottenham Saturday … Can we get this ready to go as a press release.”
It is unknown why the photos never appear to have been released.
Labour MP Jo Stevens, who sits on the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee, said: “The video of the boat is very obviously fake and put together in a fake way.
“The photographs are a little bit more difficult to spot that, but clearly fake news with a deliberate intention of stoking hatred and anti-immigrant feeling and rhetoric.”
Labour MP David Lammy, a spokesman for the second referendum campaign Best for Britain, called the alleged images and video “wicked, nasty and totally fake propaganda designed to whip up hatred of migrants.”
In response to the allegations, Arron Banks said: “Leave.EU is the biggest viral political campaign in the UK, with 3.7 million engagements last week on Facebook alone, dwarfing political parties and other groups.
“Channel 4 is packed with ex-Guardian journalists and left-wing activists, who create fake news for a living!
“The campaign must be doing something right to annoy all the right people consistently.”
Leave.EU was set up as a pro-Brexit campaign group in the run-up to the 2016 referendum on the UK’s EU membership. It fought for the official designation which was ultimately awarded to the rival group Vote Leave.
The group was frequently accused of using inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Farage, now leader of the recently-launched Brexit Party, controversially posed in front of a poster showing a queue of migrants and refugees with the caption “BREAKING POINT” during the referendum campaign.
Leave.EU has since been found to have acted illegally by the Electoral Commission, being hit with a £70,000 fine for breaking election laws and another £60,000 fine for data breaches.