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HomeEntertainment NewsANDREW PIERCE: A baby-faced fraudster called 'Posh George' and a millionaire donor...

ANDREW PIERCE: A baby-faced fraudster called ‘Posh George’ and a millionaire donor with a spooky alter ego – meet two bizarre characters in Team Oddball who are key members of Farage’s inner circle


These are heady times for Nigel Farage. Polls now show his burgeoning Reform party outpacing the Conservatives – and he boasts openly of replacing the Tories as the main Right-of-centre force at Westminster.

Perhaps, then, it’s time for a little scrutiny of the colourful crew ­surrounding him.

If Farage presents himself as a beer-swilling ‘man of the people’, not all of his associates are quite so ­cheerfully plebeian.

Take George Cottrell, for example, the chubby-faced son of an aristocrat who is never far from Farage’s side — just one of many curious characters recruited by Reform.

Last week when the Reform UK leader was ‘milkshaked’ in Clacton, Essex – where Farage hopes to be MP – 30-year-old Cottrell was just feet away from him.

Reform leader Nigel Farage with former aide George Cottrell (right) in Westminster

Cottrell was in the helicopter with Farage as they flew back to London from Ashfield in Nottinghamshire on behalf of one of Reform’s most high profile candidates, the former ­Conservative Party deputy chairman Lee Anderson.

And last month the millennial was among a handful of advisers trusted with the information that Farage had dramatically changed his mind — and that, despite his earlier denials, he was going to run for Parliament after all.

It’s a remarkable relationship, not least because Cottrell, known to friends as ‘Posh George’, is a ­convicted criminal who spent eight months in an American jail for money ­laundering and fraud.

In 2016, he was arrested and led away in handcuffs when, in the company of Farage, he stepped off a plane in Chicago.

At the time of his arrest, he had been working in Farage’s office and claimed on his LinkedIn account to have co-directed Brexit fundraising for the UK Independence Party (Ukip), a forerunner of Reform.

The following year, 2017, Cottrell was jailed and fined $30,000 for ‘wire fraud’ (a type of crime involving a means of electronic communication such as the internet).

He pleaded guilty after he was caught offering an undercover agent from the US Inland Revenue Service advice on the ‘ways criminal proceeds could be laundered’ on the dark web. Cottrell was working with a Colorado ­associate identified only by the pseudonym ‘Banker’.

The former Ukip leader arrives at Nick Candy's London mansion for a fundraising evening

The former Ukip leader arrives at Nick Candy’s London mansion for a fundraising evening

He reached a plea agreement, thereby reducing his prison sentence from a possible 20 years. Cottrell served his eight months in maximum security prisons in Arizona and Illinois.

It’s not clear what the working-class voters of the so-called Red Wall — the traditionally Labour constituencies where Reform has strong appeal — would make of the sharp-suited Cottrell were they to know him a little better.

So who exactly is this intriguing young man?

Expelled from £45,000-a-year Malvern College, Cottrell was at one point best known as the on-off boyfriend of Made in ­Chelsea and I’m A Celebrity star Georgia Toffolo.

He certainly likes to flaunt his wealth. Last month it was reported that the financier, who drives a £300,000 black ­Lamborghini, lost a staggering £16 million in a single night at a casino in Montenegro, where he lives for part of the year.

His main home is a four-storey, four-bedroom townhouse in west London worth around £8 million.

Cottrell has admitted in court documents that he once had a ‘serious, years-long ­gambling problem’.

But he also has an influential network of friends and relatives to help him when times are tough.

His late father Mark, a Gloucestershire landowner, went to ­Gordonstoun school in Scotland with Prince Andrew. His mother, Fiona, is the daughter of the late Lord Manton, who lived in Houghton Hall, a Georgian mansion set in 7,800 acres of land in Yorkshire.

Fiona Manton was linked romantically to Prince Charles in the early 1970s, but enjoyed a different sort of publicity when she turned to glamour modelling and, in October 1973, was declared Penthouse magazine’s ‘Pet of The Month’.

Farage in Clacton, Essex, last week - where the Reform UK leader was ¿milkshaked¿ ¿ and Cottrell was just feet away from him

Farage in Clacton, Essex, last week – where the Reform UK leader was ‘milkshaked’ – and Cottrell was just feet away from him

Cottrell’s uncle, Lord Hesketh, is a former Conservative Party treasurer who defected to Ukip in 2011.

Today, Cottrell wields huge influence in the court of Farage and many senior Reform figures are understandably wary of ­crossing swords with him.

His ties to the party are close and numerous. The Reform party election HQ, for example, is an apartment near Buckingham

Palace in which Cottrell used to live. Farage, meanwhile, keeps his own office in Mayfair. ‘He is a cross between Nigel’s concierge and eldest son. They have a father-son relationship,’ said one Reform source.

‘There is “Team Reform” and there is “Team Nigel”. Posh George is very much Team Nigel.’

Farage will not hear a word against his protege and dismisses those who say it is wrong to include a convicted fraudster on his battle bus.

‘There is a thing called ­Christian forgiveness,’ he has said. ‘If ­people get convicted or do something wrong, well, they have another chance in life to go on and prove themselves.’

For his part, Cottrell claims to have turned his life around since becoming more closely involved with Farage and Reform. But if the polls are looking healthy, so are Reform’s finances: in the past week alone, an additional £1 million has poured into party coffers.

Recent weeks have also seen a pledge of £500,000 from ­Christopher Harborne, a tech industry investor of vast wealth who has lived in Thailand for the past 20 years. He gave a record £13.7 million to the Brexit Party (which became Ukip and then Reform) in the years running up to the 2016 EU referendum.

In 2022, Harborne, a management consultant, became one of the largest shareholders in the Ministry of Defence spin-off ­QinetiQ with a £150 million investment. The company used to be the publicly owned research arm of the MoD before it was ­privatised in 2006.

Yet Harborne himself has an intriguing question to answer: why does he seem to have an alter ego in Thailand, where it is understood he has taken not just Thai citizenship but a different name.

His photograph, for example, appears in the minutes of a shareholders’ meeting for a company called Seamico Securities, yet the name on the board of directors is given as ‘Chakrit Sakunkrit’.

Chakrit Sakunkrit is credited with a list of achievements and accomplishments identical

to those of Harborne. These include a masters degree in engineering from the University of Cambridge, an MBA from the prestigious INSEAD business school in France and executive positions at Sherriff Global Group, which trades in private planes, and AML Global, an aviation fuel company.

It very much appears to be the same person — yet Companies House in Britain lists Harborne and Sakunkrit as ­separate individuals, each of whom were born in December 1962.

Harborne was among the guests at the Boisdale restaurant in Belgravia for Farage’s 60th birthday party in April. It’s not known what he discussed on that particular occasion, but he is said to enjoy asking people if they own a plane. ‘I’ve got three,’ is his trademark rejoinder.

Property millionaire Nick Candy and his actress wife Holly Valance were also at the birthday party — which featured a surprise video message from Donald Trump.

‘I very much look forward to what your next move is going to be,’ Trump told Farage in the short film. ‘It’s going to be an interesting one. But you are not done yet and hopefully the best is yet to come.’

George Cottrell spent eight months in an American jail for money ­laundering and fraud

George Cottrell spent eight months in an American jail for money ­laundering and fraud

On Wednesday this week Farage was at a swish fundraising event for Trump at the Candys’ London home. It brought in more than £2 million for the presidential contender. Cottrell was there, too, naturally.

The property developer was once a Tory party donor, but is now said to be considering a major cash injection to Reform.

Candy was seen at the press conference last week when Farage announced he was running for Parliament.

‘Candy likes Nigel a lot and admires him, so it makes sense if he gives money to Reform,’ said a source.

He is not the only Conservative to be tempted by Farage’s new outfit. Jon Wood, who set up the hedge fund SRM global and gave £1 million to the ­Conservative Party in 2022 when Boris

Johnson was leader, said: ‘The Tories have behaved appallingly. They are not Tories. The way they got rid of Boris was undemocratic. If I back any party this time it will be Farage and Reform UK.’

Even some Conservative MPs seem keen to snuggle up. Dame Andrea Jenkyns pleaded with Rishi Sunak to adopt a tougher policy on the European Convention on Human Rights. That way, she argued, it might be possible to persuade Reform to stand down some candidates against Right-wing Tory MPs.

Her overture was rejected — and she subsequently made her feelings clear, including two pictures of Farage in her campaign literature as she seeks re-election in Morley and Outwood.

‘Andrea Jenkyns could have used a picture of Rishi,’ commented Farage on social media. ‘I wonder why she didn’t?’

Nigel Farage joins pro-Brexit activists from Leave Means Leave on a march in London in 2019

Nigel Farage joins pro-Brexit activists from Leave Means Leave on a march in London in 2019

Not everything is rosy in the Farage garden, however.

Reform has been knocked by the revelation that as many as 41 of its candidates (one in 15) are social media ‘friends’ with Gary Raikes, the leader of a neo-Nazi group named the New British Union, which has called for a ­‘fascist revolution’.

And in the past few days, Farage has been forced on to the ­defensive about election candidates including Steve Chilcott in the Ealing Southall consituency, who said in 2017: ‘Islam, Nazis. They are the same thing.’

In 2022, Ian Gribbin, the Reform candidate for Bexhill and Battle, wrote that ‘Britain would be in a far better state today had we taken Hitler up on his offer of neutrality’.

In the same month, Gribbin criticised Sir Winston Churchill, denouncing the ‘cult’ of the wartime leader and stating that, when it came to military strategy, his record ‘was abysmal’.

Another Reform candidate has described the pandemic as a ‘health holocaust’ and yet another has attacked vaccine firms as being like ‘Nazi ­armament companies’.

Asked about these disgraceful comments, Farage said: ‘They are ordinary people. That’s how ­people out there speak.’

Challenged as to whether they should be disciplined, he seemed surprisingly relaxed. ‘What can you do?’ he replied. ‘The name is on the ballot paper. I can’t remove it.’

Perhaps he can afford to be a little blase. The Conservatives, meanwhile, must reflect upon what might have been.

Today, it can be disclosed for the first time that Farage’s friends hoped he would run as the ­Conservative candidate to be London mayor – a race won by Labour’s Sadiq Khan.

Yet I’m told that Sunak’s advisers blocked the idea from even reaching the Prime Minister.

‘If Sunak had shown an interest, perhaps it could have happened,’ says a source.

‘But now, as Sunak knows to his cost, Nigel Farage has much ­bigger fish to fry than the London mayoralty.’



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