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UK English Defense League co-founder gambles and declares bankruptcy

Posted on: June 10, 2022, 05:25h.

Last update: June 10, 2022, 09:10 a.m.

Last year a British court ordered Tommy Robinson, the co-founder of the far-right Islamophobic group English Defense League (EDL), to pay £500,000 (US$624,300) to settle a libel suit. He did not comply, but had no problem spending money on gambling before declaring bankruptcy.

tommy robinson
Tommy Robinson, co-founder and former leader of the anti-Islam group English Defense League. He appeared in court yesterday on contempt of court allegations. (Image: The Independent)

Jamal Hijazi sued Robinson (legally Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) for defamation after he was attacked in October 2018 at Almondbury Community School in Huddersfield. Robinson claimed, after video of the incident flooded social media, that Hijazi violently attacked English girls at school.

Robinson, a former member of the British National Party, added that Hijazi had “beaten a black and blue girl” and threatened to stab another boy. These claims were proven false in court last summer. As a result, the judge ordered Robinson to pay £43,293 (US$54,072) in legal costs after a preliminary hearing in November 2020. However, Robinson apparently had other plans.

In defiance of the law

After Hijazi’s libel trial was successful, a judge ordered Robinson to pay damages of £100,000 (US$124,930). He also had to pay the plaintiff’s legal costs, around £500,000.

Robinson allegedly did not comply with the judge’s order. As a result, Hijazi’s lawyers asked the court to force Robinson to appear and answer all questions regarding his finances. A judge responded to the request and Robinson was due back in court in March.

The EDL founder did not appear. He told the High Court last month that he had missed the hearing due to mental health issues resulting from harassment. However, he finally appeared at a hearing in London yesterday, the BBC reports.

Robinson described himself as a “disaster with paper” during questioning by the High Court about his finances. He also told the court he owed £160,000 ($199,872) to HM Revenue and Customs, the UK tax authority. However, he later said that was only an estimate.

He also said he had spent around £100,000 on gambling in the two years before he declared bankruptcy. He said, “I sold a property and received the money. I then spent it. However, other reports indicate that some of this money may have come from donations he has received.

Robinson also attempted to claim mental distress. He said he suffered from PTSD and the public fallout had been too great. He complained that he was unable to open a bank account as NatWest, HSBC and Lloyds closed him. It’s not so bad, however, because Robinson was able to open an account with an unidentified online bank.

Wrong direction

The EDL pushes the same rhetoric about Islam as other hate groups. For example, it denounces Muslim extremism, but then puts all Muslims in that category. Robinson led the group from 2009 to 2013.

During his audition yesterday, Robinson also answered questions about his autobiography, enemy of the state. In it, he claimed that seven properties were in his or his wife’s name when he helped establish the EDL in 2009.

However, he acknowledged that there were not seven properties. He shrugged when asked if he believed the book was fake and said he had written it years ago. His excuse was that he used a ghostwriter to help him with the book.

During the hearing, questions were also asked about his paid employment with a far-right Canadian news site and an online media startup. He acknowledged a relationship with them, but added that he had not received a salary because “they don’t”.

Robinson will have to return to court in August to determine if he was in contempt of court.