Revealed: Bankrupt Tommy Robinson’s ex-wife ‘set up firm to raise funds for the far-right activist’

Exclusive: English Defence League founder has been appealing for financial support on encrypted messenger Telegram

Simon Murphy
Chief Reporter
Saturday 29 January 2022 19:09
Tommy Robinson ‘misused’ donations from far-right supporters, claim former allies - EDL founder denies claims

The ex-wife of bankrupt far-right activist Tommy Robinson has set up a firm in an apparent bid to help raise funds for her former husband, The Independent understands.

Robinson’s account on encrypted messenger service Telegram has posted links in recent weeks to a “Square FT” donations website which purports to support “freelance independent journalists”. Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has appealed to followers for “security costs” via the website for what he has billed an “investigation” into “grooming gangs”.

He also promoted the Square FT funding page on his account on GETTR, a self-styled “free speech” social media platform founded by a former Donald Trump aide, where he has a following of more than 160,000.

A Companies House filing unearthed by The Independent shows that Robinson’s ex-wife, Jenna Lennon, is the sole director of Square FT Ltd, which appears to be linked to the funding website. The Square FT website and company were both set up in August last year. There is no evidence of any wrongdoing by Ms Lennon or Square FT. Robinson is entitled to receive funds whilst bankrupt but they must be declared.

The English Defence League founder – a convicted fraudster who has tried to reinvent himself in recent years as a journalist – is estimated to owe creditors £2m, much of which relates to a libel case he lost last year after falsely accusing a Syrian refugee schoolboy of attacking a girl. Anti-racism campaign group Hope Not Hate (HNH) believes Robinson has access to assets worth up to an estimated £3m. Robinson declared himself bankrupt in March, a month after he and Ms Lennon divorced, according to HNH.

Individuals who are bankrupt are restricted from being a director of a limited company – or, according to Mark Sands, chair of the personal insolvency committee at insolvency and restructuring trade body R3, acting as a “shadow director”, meaning they carry out the same role in all but name. Failing foul of the terms of bankruptcy in this way would be a prosecutable offence, he said.

The Independent has not seen any evidence to suggest Robinson is acting as a shadow director of Square FT, or has failed to declare income.

On 22 December, Robinson posted a video on his Telegram channel – where he has more than 155,000 subscribers – in which he said he was having dinner at his ex-wife’s house, joking that she was “lucky” he had already divorced her as she had run out of ketchup. In the clip, he encouraged followers to download GETTR and follow him. An accompanying post included a link to the Square FT page, adding: “If you want to help me help a grooming victim so she can move into a safe area then please CLICK HERE to donate!!!”

The Square FT website page makes no mention of Robinson, but one page invites browsers to donate between £5 and £100. Under the heading “Relocating a Telford grooming victim”, it states: “Empowering us empowers you!!! Please consider contributing so that we can continue to provide for those on a mission to build a better world.”

The homepage for Square FT, which also omits any reference to Robinson, says underneath a picture showing silhouettes of people set against a city skyline: “Become the very best freelancer you can be – break the chains of corporate journalism.”

Underneath, it reads: “At Square FT we provide solutions for independent and freelance journalists. We will work with you to help with crowdfunding, campaigns, collaboration and networking to reach your goal. As an independent freelance journalist you can put your audience in a position of power, where you cover the topics they are interested in, topics that can get left behind by mainstream media due to advertisement/sponsorship conflicts etc etc.

“Journalists who crowdfund strongly believe in the journalistic norm of autonomy, so by raising your profile and gaining the trust and support of those who want to watch or read stories that are avoided by the mainstream, then Square FT is the best place to start your journey of independence and free thinking. Break the shackles of ‘corporate journalism’ and provide something fresh, original and cover stories that stuffy corporate bosses tend to avoid. Welcome to the brand new world of autonomous journalism.”

Companies House records show Square FT Ltd was incorporated in August, with Ms Lennon listed as its only director. The firm’s business activity is described as “Other information service activities not elsewhere classified”. It is not known how much, if any, money has been donated via the Square FT website and details for who registered the website have not been made public.

In another Telegram post on 3 January, Robinson’s account linked to another page on the Square FT website, writing: “Please help us with security. Donate by CLICKING HERE!!!! I need your help.  My team is going to need to cover more security costs after this attack on my car, the survivors house and a local woman.

“There is no doubt in my mind members of Telford’s grooming gangs are scared, they are like a wounded animal, they are prepared to lash out at any time and do ANYTHING to silence and intimidate those of us who are shining a light on the RAPE JIHAD that’s been going on in this town for forty years.”

The link takes users to a page on Square FT inviting donations under the heading: “Security costs for investigating Telford grooming gang.”

On 10 January a link to the website was again posted from Robinson’s Telegram account, with the message: “Don’t forget to support our work, we cant do this without you.”

Robinson was due to unveil a video on Saturday afternoon featuring what he claims to be an investigation into grooming gangs in Telford, Shropshire, entitled “Rape of Britain”. There is also set to be a march in the town.

As recently as this month, Robinson’s GETTR profile included a link to the Square FT funding page – including the message urging people to support “my investigation of Telford grooming gangs” – but the link has since been removed.

Earlier this month, insolvency practitioners Nigel Heath Sinclair and Christine Bartlett, of Richard Long & Co, were appointed joint trustees over the bankruptcy estate of Robinson. They are investigating assets and potential assets held by Robinson, who is due to be discharged from bankruptcy in March. In a statement, Richard Long & Co said: “The trustees are constrained by the Data Protection Act and their professional obligations and as such are unable to give any information regarding creditors to any third party and currently cannot comment on their investigations, which are at an early stage. The investigations will not conclude following the bankrupt’s automatic discharge which is presently scheduled for 2 March 2022.”

Being bankrupt does not stop an individual earning a living, Mr Sands said, but they have to disclose all income to a trustee. “[The bankrupt individual] is then entitled to keep sufficient of that income for the reasonable domestic needs of him and his family,” he said. “A trustee is then entitled to ask to receive any income in excess of those needs.

“If the trustee and the bankrupt cannot agree the level of those needs the bankruptcy court can be asked to determine that figure.

“Once a bankrupt is discharged, normally after 12 months, he is entitled to keep all his earnings. However, if he is shown to have surplus income before discharge, and the trustee asks him to hand over that surplus income, or the bankruptcy court orders him to do so, the trustee can then ask the bankrupt to pay over his surplus income for three years from the point they agree there is a surplus. Therefore, a bankrupt has an incentive to keep his income below his needs until the year is up and he is discharged from bankruptcy and the trustee will want to ensure that there is no hidden income.”

He added: “If a person campaigning wanted to ask for donations, donations for them to live off of, the donations have to be declared to the trustee in the bankruptcy because that, in effect, is income in my view. However, if the donations are for them to print leaflets and get on a train to go and appear and use that money for campaigning then actually, that’s not their money. That is something that bankruptcy would not restrict you from doing.”

Robinson, who did not respond to a request for comment before publication, was jailed for 18 months in 2014 for mortgage fraud. Following the libel case he lost last year, he was ordered by a judge to pay £100,000. In addition, he owes an estimated £1.5m in legal costs for the teenager’s lawyers.

Other creditors include HMRC, a former business partner and Barrow-in-Furness borough council, according to Hope Not Hate. The campaign group is fundraising to pay for the cost of Richard Long & Co’s role in the bankruptcy case. Before Sinclair and Bartlett were appointed earlier this month, the case had been handled by the Official Receiver’s office.

HNH chief executive Nick Lowles said: “Since 2017, Tommy Robinson has tried to reinvent himself from a street activist and street agitator to … a journalist. Now, of course, he remains a street activist and a street agitator as we’re seeing at the weekend in Telford. His behaviour in the run-up to Telford, and holding the event in Telford, is not that of a normal journalist.”

Robinson was issued with a stalking protection order in October after targeting The Independent’s home affairs editor, Lizzie Dearden.

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