A close aide to former Ukip leader Nigel Farage has pleaded not guilty to to 21 counts of money laundering, fraud and extortion in the US. A judge has denied George Cottrell bail, deeming him a "serious flight risk" and remanded the 22-year-old in custody in Phoenix, Arizona.
Cottrell runs Farage's office and comes from an aristocratic family. He was arrested as he got off a flight at Chicago's O'Hare airport on 22 July while making his way back to London from the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio.
Cottrell, the grandson of late Yorkshire landowner Lord Manton, is alleged to have agreed to launder money for drug traffickers who were really undercover FBI agents. According to court documents, he agreed to launder cash in return for payment in "complete anonymity and security" through his offshore accounts after being contacted by the FBI agents in 2014.
According to the indictment, Cottrell also tried to blackmail the undercover agents and threatened to expose them as "drug traffickers" unless they paid him $81,000 (£62,000) in bitcoins.
Cottrell is also alleged to have advertised consultation and money laundering services through the dark web under the pseudonym "Bill" between March and September 2014.
Court documents claim that Cottrell has had "serious, years-long gambling problem", which resulted in him taking "irrational risks".
Cottrell is reportedly worth £250m. He had been working for Farage for free, the Daily Mail noted.
Farage was unaware of Cottrell's alleged involvement in illegal activities and his arrest is said to have come as a "shock".
Earlier this month, a UKIP spokesman said: "George was an unpaid and enthusiastic volunteer for the party over the period of the referendum.
"We are unaware of the details of the allegations excepting that they date from a time before he was directly involved in the party."
Cottrell's trial is set to take place on 4 October.