Nigel Farage has been accused of allowing “fake members” to join his Brexit Party – as the Mirror signed up as Vladimir Putin.
The revelation shows how the party could be opening the door to millions in donations from foreign sources.
The former Ukip leader boasted yesterday that 100,000 people had signed up as £25-a-year supporters of his party.
But unlike most other political parties, the Brexit Party’s website has no safeguards to ensure supporters are eligible to donate to political parties in the UK.
It means Farage’s party could have received up to £2.5 million in unregistered donations, and nobody would be able to find out where they came from.
In a Twitter video, Farage told supporters: “We’ve done it. We’ve hit 100,000 registered supporters, all of you paying £25 a time.
“It is the most amazing grassroots support that’s ever been seen in this period of time in British politics.”
But a Mirror investigation found that it was possible to sign up as a Brexit Party supporter under the name of Vladimir Putin, giving the address of the Kremlin.
The £25 payment can be taken from credit cards registered in any country in the world.
And PayPal, who process the payments, do not tell the Brexit Party what country the money is coming from.
Labour ’s Chris Bryant said: “A fake party, with fake members offering fake solutions. That sums them up.”
Political parties can only accept donations of more than £500 from UK registered voters or organisations.
But a loophole in the law means payments under £500 aren’t considered “donations”, and so could come from anyone, anywhere in the world.
It’s a criminal offence to evade controls on donations, including by making multiple smaller payments.
But parties are only required to collect information on the source of donations over £500, so there’s no way of knowing whether someone has done that using PayPal.
And there are no regulations at all governing cash given to political parties as “membership fees”, such as the £25 payment to register as a Brexit Party supporter.
The Mirror tested the websites of the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats , Change UK and the Brexit Party.
And while it’s not impossible for a foreign donor to give money to them, in most cases it’s much more difficult and creates a paper trail.
Neither Labour, the Lib Dems or Change UK accept PayPal as a payment method, and their credit card system requires the donor’s address to match the card billing address.
This means they would have a record of what country any donations or membership fees came from.
Similarly, the Conservative Party requires donors and members to pay through either their own card system or as a registered PayPal user, which would create a paper trail.
They’re also required to accept the terms and conditions, which allow them to reject membership applications at any time.