The far-right activist Tommy Robinson is being pursued for an estimated £2m by creditors after he claimed bankruptcy during a high court libel trial.
The English Defence League founder, whose real name is Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, declared himself bankrupt in a high court trial last year in which he was ordered to pay £100,000 in libel damages to a Syrian schoolboy he defamed online.
In March Robinson will be officially discharged from bankruptcy, meaning he no longer has to pay back any debts covered by the filing – including the six-figure legal fees.
It emerged on Thursday that creditors have asked an independent insolvency expert to investigate whether Robinson’s claim is genuine or whether he is “hiding” assets to avoid paying his debts.
The campaign group Hope Not Hate said it believed Robinson had access to assets worth up to about £3m through property acquisitions, investments, donations and book sales. The group said it would supply a dossier of evidence to the new investigation.
The Guardian has attempted to reach Robinson for comment.
Nick Lowles, the chief executive of Hope Not Hate, 말했다: “It is wholly unjust that while his victim’s life has been turned upside down, Tommy Robinson carries on his life as before.”
Robinson claimed bankruptcy in March last year during a high court libel trial brought by Jamal Hijazi, a schoolboy from Syria who was filmed being attacked at school.
Shortly after the video of the incident went viral, Robinson falsely claimed in Facebook videos viewed by nearly 1 million people that Hijazi was “not innocent and he violently attacks young English girls in his school”.
The judge, Mr Justice Nicklin, said the consequences of Robinson’s falsehoods had been “particularly severe” for Hijazi and the scars would “likely last for many years, if not a lifetime”.
He ordered Robinson to pay Hijazi £100,000 in damages plus his legal costs, although the teenager has not yet seen a penny due to Robinson’s bankruptcy claim.
Hope Not Hate said it was raising funds in order to compile a dossier for investigators about Robinson’s finances. Lowles said: “Tommy Robinson has to understand that there are real consequences to his hate. It is time to make him pay up and ensure that his victims get proper justice.”
The insolvency investigator has a number of powers at his disposal including accessing Robinson’s bank and company records, interviewing witnesses under oath and – if necessary – applying to court for search and arrest warrants.
The Guardian has revealed previously how Robinson had an international network of wealthy backers and received donations and other support from across the globe.
Such was the influence of Robinson’s supporters that they asked advisers to the Republican former US presidential candidate Ted Cruz for legal advice on securing an extended visa for “someone who needs protection”.