Meet ‘Posh George’: The Shady Money Man Tangled Up With Brexit, Russia, and Trump

Why did Nigel Farage take a dark web fraudster to the Republican convention? And what did this young money-laundering maven tell the feds when they busted him?

LONDON—When Nigel Farage, Mr. Brexit, watched Donald Trump accept the Republican Party’s presidential nomination at the convention last year he had an extremely unlikely companion. His closest aide on the trip was an offshore investment expert who had boasted on the dark web about his ability to launder money illegally in and out of the United States.

The aide, George Cottrell, was busted at Chicago’s O’Hare airport on his way home to London on July 22, 2016. He would later plead guilty to participating in a scheme “to advertise money laundering services on a TOR network black-market website.”

With questions being raised about a dark money influence on Brexit—and the election of Donald Trump—all of this begs the question: who was this criminal operative chosen to accompany Farage at the RNC where he met with some of Trump’s best known boosters, including Newt Gingrich and Roger Stone?

It was reported earlier this year that Farage is a person of interest in the FBI’s Russia-Trump probe. He appeared alongside Trump at a rally in Mississippi in August 2016, and was one of the first foreign politicians to visit Trump Tower after the shock election victory.

As well as Cottrell’s advertised ability to transmit money across borders without detection, he was well versed in the world of offshore and cross-border banking. Despite having no political experience, this was the man—aged just 22 at the time—Farage chose to run his office at the height of the battle for Brexit. He was also the co-director of Brexit fundraising for UKIP.

Cottrell is young to have developed such knowledge of international finance, but then again he was first registered as the director of a business, Upsilon Investments six years ago while he was still a high school-aged kid —alongside an offshore director based in the British Virgin Islands—according to records lodged with Companies House in London.


Before entering his guilty plea, Cottrell changed his name to George Cotrel. He told the U.S. authorities this was intended to “distance his previous involvement in certain political activities.”  It didn’t work.

Some of those who saw him running around for Farage while working at the pro-Brexit party thought of Cottrell as a “swashbuckler”—a player who remained popular in Farage’s clique not least because he was known to be extremely generous at the bar.

Others say he was a serious operator. “He was a very smart cookie, very clever chap. When I was campaigning with him, he was erudite and had all the attributes going for him,” said Nigel Sussman, the commercial director of the pro-Moscow group Westminster Russia Forum and a former UKIP candidate.

“He was very well connected,” Sussman told The Daily Beast.

Cottrell had worked for a number of banks, including a most recent role helping high net worth individuals shift their money across borders. He also claims he had been working as a consultant in the financial intelligence unit of an intelligence agency for over a year when he joined UKIP—in a senior role that he undertook for free. “I don’t think he was ever paid a bean by the party, not a single bean,” said a party official.

A UKIP insider said he was remarkably effective and knowledgeable for his age. “He’s entirely personable, entirely likeable, a great fun figure and very impressive getting things done,” he said. “He brought us skills of immense chutzpah and phenomenal self-confidence.”