Steve Bannon: former adviser to Donald Trump arrested for wire fraud

Justice Department said he was charged over fundraising for the US-Mexico border wall

Steve Bannon, a former adviser to US President Donald Trump, has been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in relation to a fundraising campaign for the building of the US-Mexico border wall.

Federal prosecutors alleged Mr Bannon and three others “orchestrated a scheme to defraud hundreds of thousands of donors” in connection with an online crowdfunding campaign called "We Build The Wall".

The campaign raised more than $25 million (Dh91.8m) to build a barrier along the southern border of the US, lawyer Audrey Strauss said.

Despite portraying “We Build the Wall” as a volunteer organisation, Mr Bannon received more than $1m from the group, some of which was used to pay for his personal expenses, prosecutors said.

Hours after his arrest, Mr Bannon, 66, pleaded not guilty during an appearance in a Manhattan federal court.

“As alleged, the defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalising on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction,” Ms Strauss said.

Defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalising on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars

We Build The Wall founders Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea were also indicted.

Mr Kolfage, who prosecutors described as the public face and founder of the operation, received thousands of dollars that he used to fund a lavish lifestyle.

He is due to appear in federal court in Florida on Thursday.

The other two defendants are due to appear in courts in the Middle District of Florida and Colorado.

Mr Bannon, 66, served as the chief executive of Mr Trump’s presidential campaign and was the architect of his populist strategy.

The former leader of Breitbart News helped Mr Trump to increase his appeal among the far right, often prompting accusations of racism and conspiracy-mongering.

In the White House, Mr Bannon was a leading proponent of the administration’s efforts to ban travel from a group of Muslim-majority countries.

But his tenure in the administration was a rocky one.

Opponents accused him of leaking to the media and haphazard efforts to root out “deep state” opponents of the administration.

Coverage suggesting that he was using outsize influence to manipulate the president quickly drew Mr Trump’s ire.

Mr Bannon was sacked seven months into his role during the controversy over Mr Trump’s handling of the violence that erupted at white supremacist protests in Charlottesville.

He applauded the president’s strategy to voice support for some of the demonstrators protesting against the removal of Confederate statues, who marched with people chanting Nazi slogans.