Illegal shipments, seized cargo and a $1m lawsuit: Documents reveal global trail of Brexit money man

Richard Cook, pictured in 2009 (Alan Milligan)
Richard Cook, pictured in 2009 (Alan Milligan)

RICHARD COOK once had high hopes of a career in politics. In 2010, he was tipped to be the next MP for East Renfrewshire as he took on Labour’s Jim Murphy in the once strongly Conservative constituency.

He lost heavily but during the campaign, Mr Cook, who lives in Clarkston, Glasgow, talked up his green credentials. He had worked for almost a decade in accounts for waste management company Biffa, but, in May 2008, had become a founding director of DDR Recycling.

The company operated from an industrial estate on the outskirts of Glasgow. But, while Mr Cook was urging voters to “clean-up politics”, his firm was shipping waste around the world. The legality of some of those shipments would be questioned by the authorities.

Here, documents and emails uncovered by the openDemocracy investigative website lay bare an international trail of debt and questionable deals.

Click on the points on the map to read more.


The Hack

There was a curious exchange between Richard Cook and the Environment Agency after the regulators were told a company called Xener Import Export based in Romania, had “acted as an intermediary” in the rubber shipment to India.

In June 2010, the Environmental Agency wrote to DDR pointing out Mr Cook’s LinkedIn page suggested he was a director of Xener.

In response, Mr Cook denied he had ever been a director and suggested his Linkedin page must have been hacked and that he would be asking the firm to investigate.

It is not believed LinkedIn received any complaint.


The response

Businessman Richard Cook strongly denies any suggestion of wrongdoing in any of his business dealings.

He declined to respond in detail but a spokesman said there was no evidence to suggest any wrongdoing in the global deals struck by his former waste management company DDR.

In a rare interview last year, Mr Cook, chairman of the secretive Constitutional Research Council and, so far, the only member identified, dismissed concern around the £435,000 donation to the DUP to fund Brexit campaigning during the referendum.

Mr Cook, a former vice-chairman of the Scottish Tories, told the Sunday Herald: “The CRC is regulated by the Electoral Commission. We operate solely in the UK. We accept donations only from eligible UK donors.

“We donate solely to permissible UK entities. Any suggestion that we have done anything else is basically defamatory.”

“I’m not going to get into the donors, like I am not going to get into the members.”

The electoral authorities insist there is no need to investigate the source of the CRC’s £435,000 donation to the DUP further although that decision may be challenged in court.

The ongoing focus on the source of the money is part of wider international concern around how so-called “dark money” and the digital profiling and targeting of voters is being used to influence elections.

The DUP said the party has been “open and transparent” about the money. A spokesman said: “The DUP is well aware of its responsibilities and has complied with the regulations as set out by the Electoral Commission.

“If we had failed to comply, we would be subject to further investigation. In the interests of transparency we have provided information in the public domain which we were not legally obliged to provide.”

INVESTIGATION: Deals, no deals, and dubious deals… the trail of Brexit Leave campaign’s mystery money man Richard Cook – read more