UK
21/03/2018 15:24 GMT

Cambridge Analytica Founders Behind New London-Based Data Processing Company

The founders and funders of controversial election consultants Cambridge Analytica are behind a new company registered in London appearing to offer similar services.

Executives at Cambridge Analytica (CA) and parent company SCL Group registered Emerdata Limited as a data processing company last summer but they have since listed directors linked to private military contractors, secretive political meetings and the Trump administration.

Rebekah and Jennifer Mercer, daughters of the billionaire Robert Mercer who funded Cambridge Analytica, its parent company SCL Group and Donald Trump’s election campaign, were officially registered as directors of the company on Tuesday, the same day CA chief executive Alexander Nix was suspended from his role for comments made to journalists posing as prospective clients.

Channel 4 News broadcast footage on Monday which showed Mr Nix discussing entrapment, disinformation tactics and “fake IDs and websites” to influence elections.

Mr Nix and Julian Wheatland, the chairman of SCL Group, are listed as directors of Emerdata.

Companies House records show Mr Wheatland registered Emerdata last August, alongside CA’s chief data officer Alexander Tayler. Dr Tayler has since left the board of Emerdata but was appointed chief executive of Cambridge Analytica in Nix’s place.

Cambridge Analytica is at the centre of a row over their use of Facebook data, accused of harvesting personal information from more than 50 million accounts and using it to target them with political advertising which plays on their hopes and fears.

“If you’re collecting data on people and you’re profiling them, that gives you more insight that you can use to know how to segment the population, to give them messaging about issues that they care about, and language and imagery that they’re likely to engage with,” Dr Tayler said about his work at CA, in footage secretly filmed by Channel 4 News.

“We used that in America and we used that in Africa. That’s what we do as a company.”

Also named as a director of Emerdata is 66-year-old Hong Kong businessman Johnson Chun Shun Ko, a close associate of Erik Prince, founder of private military contractor Blackwater, which secured hundreds of millions in government contracts for private military operations during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Ko serves as deputy chairman for Frontier Services Group Limited, a company which describes itself as a “Africa-focused security, aviation and logistics company” and is led by Mr Prince, its chairman.

Mr Prince is the brother of Donald Trump’s secretary of education Betsy DeVos, and is alleged to have met an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin in the Seychelles in January 2017, nine days before the Mr Trump’s inauguration. The Washington Post described the meeting as “an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication” between Moscow and the then president-elect.

Mr Prince and the White House deny he was representing the Trump transition team in any way. Mr Prince described the meeting as a chance encounter that had nothing to do with the president.

Two other directors with apparent links to the UK were also listed.

One, 29-year-old Ahmad Al-Khatib, was described as a citizen of the Seychelles living in England, who joined the company at the same time as Mr Ko.

The other was a 30-year-old woman with British citizenship living in Hong Kong called Cheng Peng.

Little is known about either Mr Al-Khatib’s or Ms Peng’s role or background.

Mr Nix, Mr Ko, Mr Al-Khatib and Ms Peng were all appointed directors of the company on January 23 2018. Companies House records also show there was an allotment of shares to the value of almost £2 million on the same day.

Mr Wheatland and Dr Tayler ceased to be people “with significant control” on January 23, according to Companies House, although Mr Wheatland remains a director.

The company has been incorporated at two separate addresses: initially, at the offices of a law firm in central London and later an accountancy firm in Canary Wharf.