A shocking investigation has revealed how former English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson is receiving significant financial and political support from abroad – including from a US tech billionaire.
The controversial newly-appointed UKIP adviser has become something of symbol for the American far-right after he was jailed on contempt of court charges in May.
And his popularity has seen him receive support from US thinktanks, Russian and Australian trolls and several major right-wing figures.
The news comes as several high-profile UKIP members, including former leader Paul Nuttal, resigned from the party following Robinson’s appointment.
The investigation has revealed how a US tech billionaire and several US thinktanks have given financial and political aid to Tommy Robinson
As well as the tech billionaire, he has received funding from a Philadelphia-based thinktank and two other organisations who have published several articles to support Robinson.
The startling network was laid bare by a Guardian investigation.
The Philadelphia thinktank is called the Middle East Forum and it spent around $60,000 (£47,000) on Robinson’s legal fees and demonstrations staged in London earlier this year.
Meanwhile, tech billionaire Robert Shillman funded a fellowship that helped pay for Robinson to be employed by a rightwing Canadian media website, the Rebel Media, in 2017 on a salary of about £5,000 a month.
A smaller Australian rightwing group, called the Australian Liberty Alliance, also claimed to fund the former EDL leader, but withheld the amount it spent.
The Gatestone Institute, in New York, published a series of articles to support Robinson, as did the David Horowitz Freedom Center (DHFC) in California, that describes itself as a ‘school for political warfare’.
Ex-Ukip leader Paul Nuttall became the latest to walk away from the party over the hiring of Tommy Robinson as an advisor today
Horowitz, the co-founder of the DHFC, told the Guardian in an email: ‘Tommy Robinson is a courageous Englishman who has risked his life to expose the rape epidemic of young girls conducted by Muslim gangs and covered up by your shameful government.’
The investigation also found that more than 40 per cent of the tweets supporting Robinson came from the US, 30 per cent from the UK and he also received significant support from Canada, the Netherlands and nine other countries.
Meanwhile, 600 Twitter accounts, believed to be directly tied to the Russian government, tweeted multiple times in Robinson’s defence.
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has also been using Facebook donation tools, which are designed for charities, to raise funds for his activism for several months.
Gerard Batten appointed Mr Yaxley-Lennon as an adviser on rape gangs and prison reform. They are pictured in an undated photo
He has more than 1 million followers from at least a dozen countries outside the UK, including the US, Australia, Sweden and Norway.
He claims to have raised several hundred thousand pounds from donations which he says he intends to use to launch a European version of the rightwing conspiracy website Infowars and to sue the British government over his prison treatment.
The network comes a day after UKIP was thrown into yet more chaos by a trio of resignations in protest at Tommy Robinson being appointed as an adviser.
Former leader Paul Nuttall was the first to walk, complaining about the direction the beleaguered party has taken under his successor, Gerard Batten.
Mr Batten has been criticised for appointing political activist and English Defence League (EDL) founder Mr Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, as an adviser on rape gangs and prison reform.
Mr Nuttall said: ‘The association with Tommy Robinson will simply appal many moderate Brexit voters and inevitably be detrimental to the cause.’
Ukip’s leader in Scotland, MEP David Coburn, also resigned. He protested about the ‘English nationalist direction’ adopted by the party and accused it of promoting anti-Islamic policies.
‘As a unionist, I abhor English nationalism as much as I abhor Scottish nationalism,’ he wrote in a resignation letter. ‘The party has been infiltrated by people with an alternative agenda.’
Later, former London mayoral candidate and serving London Assembly member Peter Whittle also announced he was quitting.
Ukip’s most high-profile figure, Nigel Farage, quit the party earlier this week after calling for Mr Batten to be ousted over the appointment of Mr Robinson.