A Victoria-based company allegedly had over $1 million funneled to it by the U.K.’s Vote Leave campaign, in what could have been a violation of spending rules during the Brexit referendum — though leaders of both the company and the campaign deny any wrongdoing.
AggregateIQ, based in B.C.’s capital, is a company that specializes in online advertising.
One of the people who helped to start the company was Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who revealed that U.K. company Cambridge Analytica was at the centre of a data-harvesting operation that targeted millions of Facebook users before the 2016 U.S. election.
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“AggregateIQ wouldn’t exist without Cambridge Analytica,” Wylie said. “And so for me, I feel like I have a moral obligation to call out what I think was a suspicious program that may have broken the law.”
Both Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ were hired by the Vote Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum. AggregateIQ alone received £4 million for its work.
Referendum rules in the U.K. set out a spending limit for each campaign, but Shahmir Sanni, a Vote Leave volunteer, said his side found a way around that.
“They know that Vote Leave cheated,” he said.
“That people have been lied to, and that the referendum wasn’t legitimate.”
Coverage of Cambridge Analytica on Globalnews.ca:
Sanni, who had no political experience, said he was placed in charge of a parallel, puppet campaign known as “BeLeave” with a month remaining before the Brexit vote.
He said the official Brexit campaign had nearly reached its spending limit, and that Vote Leave funneled over $1 million through the BeLeave campaign to AggregateIQ.
Sanni claimed that AggregateIQ used most of that money on the official Vote Leave campaign, which would violate the Brexit referendum’s spending rules, his lawyer said.
“Blurred lines are not allowed,” said lawyer Tamsin Allen.
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“If you have blurred lines, and the electoral commission’s quite clear on this, then you have campaigns working together.”
Authorities in the U.K. and in B.C. are investigating whether AggregateIQ helped Vote Leave cheat.
Leaders of both AggregateIQ and Vote Leave deny any wrongdoing.
- With files from Sean Boynton