An aide to Nigel Farage is facing money laundering and blackmail charges in the US after being arrested while trying to travel back to Britain with the former UKIP leader.
George Cottrell, 22, a party activist from an aristocratic family, allegedly agreed to launder money for undercover agents posing as drug traffickers. According to court documents, he faces 21 charges relating to money laundering, fraud, blackmail, and extortion.
The pair was travelling together when Cottrell was arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare airport in July after visiting the Republican Party convention in Cleveland.
Cottrell, who is thought to be worth around £250 million and helps to run Farage’s office, is in custody in the US awaiting trial.
An Arizona federal indictment says that, using the alias “Bill” on the ‘dark web’ in 2014, Cottrell agreed to launder drug proceeds to offshore accounts with “complete anonymity and security.”
He allegedly met undercover agents in Las Vegas, arranging for them to transfer $20,000 (£15,500) to an associate.
Cottrell has also been accused of trying to blackmail the fake drug traffickers by threatening to report them to police unless they paid him 130 bitcoin, then worth around $80,000 (£61,000).
He was denied bail by a judge who said he “poses a serious risk of flight,” citing “a serious, years-long gambling problem which inherently suggests a strong possibility of irrational risk-taking.”
According to the Daily Mail, Cottrell’s bank and email accounts have been frozen, leaving Farage unable to access his personal diary.
Farage says he knew nothing about the allegations.
He told the Sunday Times: “This is a 22-year-old unpaid volunteer and party supporter so I didn’t know anything about this, of course not. Given that he is in a situation where there are a series of allegations against him which he is defending against, I’m just going to say nothing.”
UKIP insiders said Cottrell was a …