In his book about the Brexit campaign, Arron Banks refers to Cottrell, the nephew of Lord Hesketh – a former Tory minister who defected to Ukip – as “Posh George“, saying he is “posh to the point of caricature and wilfully abrasive, but extremely generous when it comes to picking up the bar tab”.
Previously, Cottrell had worked in banking, specialising in “offshore investment” and boasting about his expertise in money laundering. According to former Ukip candidate William Cash, it was Cottrell’s knowledge of “the murky and complicated world of shadow banking, secret offshore accounts and sophisticated financial structures” that landed him his role at Ukip.
A LinkedIn profile under his name shows him to have multiple connections with Russian entities involved in money laundering. It also shows him to have worked as a “consultant” in a private “intelligence agency” (thought by some to be Precision Risk & Intelligence Ltd, a company set up by Arron Banks).
In December 2016 Cottrell was convicted in the US of a scam that involved laundering drug money on the dark web, having been arrested in Chicago earlier in the year as he travelled back with Farage after a trip to support Donald Trump’s candidacy at the Republican National Convention. He served eight months in jail, after a plea agreement that reduced his sentence from a possible maximum of 20 years.
There has been considerable speculation about what Cottrell may have revealed to the FBI as part of his plea bargain, and whether this may have included information about the origin of money that flowed into the Brexit campaign.