THE shadowy right-wing pro-Union group which funded the pro-Brexit campaign of the Democratic Unionist Party prior to the 2016 European Union referendum was fined £6000 by the Electoral Commission for not declaring the £435,000 donation, it has been revealed.

Referred to as part of the ongoing dark money scandal engulfing the funding of the Leave campaign, the undeclared donation was made by the Constitutional Research Council (CRC) run by former Scottish Tory vice-chairman Richard Cook. The bulk of it was used by the DUP to purchase a strongly worded ‘wraparound’ pro-Leave advert in the Metro newspaper.

The BBC in Northern Ireland – where Remain narrowly won the vote – investigated the donation and revealed yesterday that the Electoral Commission had acted to fine the CRC for its failure to declare the donation. The commission has steadfastly refused to confirm that the CRC was fined, citing the law in Northern Ireland which allows political donors before July 2017 to remain anonymous – a leftover law from the Troubles which has now been scrapped.

Ironically for the organisation, when the CRC finally did report the donation after the initial inquiries, the commission found that the donation was permissible and says it will not investigate further after information from the CRC and DUP.

The Open Democracy journalists investigating the scandal say there is still doubt over the donation’s legality, not helped by the secrecy surrounding it. The fine only came to light when the Good Law Project, which is campaigning for a full investigation into the funding of the Leave campaign, received confirmation of the penalty from the Electoral Commission.

According to the BBC, in the letter to the Good Law Project, the commission stated the CRC “had no reasonable excuse for these failings”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What is the Scottish Tory 'dark money' scandal?

The BBC also stated that it had contacted Cook, who is based in East Renfrewshire, but he declined to comment.

Cook has promised to fund the anti-independence campaign in any future Scottish independence referendum.

He told the Sunday Times earlier this year: “More people with more money are ready to step up to the plate this time compared with the last referendum.”

In common with Scotland in Union (SiU) which also had secret donors prepared to campaign against independence, Cook would not name his backers. SiU’s list of donors was inadvertently made public on a website and taken up by social media in April, but there has been no leakage of the CRC’s donors.

The CRC has no registered office in Scotland and no website, with Cook being the only named official.

Apart from stating its pro-Union aims the organisation has never explained why a Scottish-based group came to fund the DUP – it was the largest-ever donation to the party – which in turn gave some of that money to Cambridge Analytica, the firm at the centre of the data harvesting scandal and who worked for Leave.

The firm, co-founded by Steve Bannon, has since gone bust and is at the centre of massive lawsuits.

Last month, The National reported the SNP’s Brendan O’Hara asked the commission if they had investigated: Why an unincorporated body in Scotland gave the DUP almost half a million pounds that was then used in the referendum campaign to advertise in a newspaper in London?”

Commission representatives at the parliamentary committee admitted they were “frustrated” by the CRC case.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas yesterday told Open Democracy that she is calling on the Electoral Commission to “urgently reopen its investigation and use its powers to demand concrete evidence of where these significant donations came from”.

Referring to its previous refusal, she added: “The Electoral Commission itself has already admitted Leave campaigners broke the law ahead of the 2016 referendum. So for them to simply take the DUP and Constitutional Research Council at their word is deeply irresponsible.”