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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Farage under investigation

On the eve of the European elections here in the UK, the European parliament has announced that it is to investigate Nigel Farage for failing to declare lavish expenses funded by Arron Banks:

Last week, Channel 4 revealed Farage was generously funded by Arron Banks in the year of the Brexit referendum. Invoices, emails and documents showed Farage benefited from a £13,000-a-month Chelsea home, a car with a driver, and promotional visits to the US in 2016.

After the documentary, the Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder called on parliamentary authorities to carry out an urgent investigation into Farage’s “apparent contraventions” of the rules. The South East of England MEP is one of five of the parliament’s “quaestors”, meaning she scrutinises funding and administration.

“There seems to be a lot of spending going on, money coming in from third parties that is not showing up on the public record,” she said.

Under the parliament’s code of conduct, MEPs are required to declare whether they receive travel, accommodation or subsistence expenses from external sources to attend events. The declaration should reveal the name and address of the funder, details about the expenses and the type of event.

Farage, who gets a €102,000-a-year MEP salary, earned up to €700,000 from media appearances in 2014-18, putting him in sixth place on a European parliament “rich list” of MEPs’ outside earnings. The precise sum of his extra earnings is not known because MEPs only have to declare other earnings in broad bands.

The Guardian says that the European parliament president, Antonio Tajani, has referred Farage issue to an advisory committee, a committee consisting of five MEPs who act as watchdogs over the parliament’s code of conduct. The rules stipulate that all members must declare expensive gifts and report whether third parties fund attendances at events.

The advisory committee will not meet until 4 June at the earliest, after this week’s European elections. It will appoint one of its members to lead the examination and write a report with a recommendation for a possible sanction. Any punishment, which could range from a reprimand to withholding expenses, will be decided by the European parliament’s president.

The paper reminds us that the Brexit party leader, an MEP for 20 years, was last year docked half his MEP pay after parliament administrators concluded he had misspent EU funds intended to staff his office. A political group dominated by UKIP – Farage’s former party – was asked to repay €173,000, after an official report said EU funds had been misspent on national campaigns.

Isn't it now time that the Electoral Commission found it cojones and carried out an investigation into the funding of the Brexit Party itself?
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