Crime Squad Investigates UKIP MEP Fraud Claim
20 March, 2015
Detectives are investigating bogus expense claim allegations which led to the suspension of a UKIP MEP and General Election candidate.
Party leader Nigel Farage said he was “deeply shocked” over the allegations a member of Janice Atkinson’s staff attempted to defraud EU expenses.
He said a full disciplinary hearing would be held on Monday into the accusations and to establish whether Ms Atkinson had been aware of her staff member’s alleged behaviour.
A Kent Police spokesman said: “The Kent and Essex serious crime directorate has received a report of fraud. The allegation is being reviewed and the investigation is ongoing.
“You’ll appreciate this investigation is at a very early stage. Kent Police will not be releasing further details at this time.”
Ms Atkinson was due to stand at the General Election in the Folkestone and Hythe seat – one of UKIP’s top election targets.
But she has now been stripped of the party whip and removed as a candidate while a UKIP panel investigates the allegations.
Mr Farage said he had spoken to Ms Atkinson late on Thursday night but “did not get a clear answer”.
He was speaking after The Sun newspaper claimed it had filmed a member of Ms Atkinson’s staff “apparently plotting to make a substantial bogus expenses claim” in relation to a UKIP party in Margate.
Speaking on his LBC radio phone-in show, Mr Farage said: “I was deeply shocked when I saw it (the film footage).
“It was one of the most incredibly stupid and dishonest things I have ever seen in my life.
“This was a member of staff. Exactly what the relationship between that member of staff asking for a false bill and Janice Atkinson is, I don’t know.
“On the evidence of what that member of staff did, it doesn’t look very good.”
He added: “I am not going to prejudge this.
“But certainly as far as the member of staff is concerned, they have asked a commercial enterprise to do something that as I understand it is against the law.”
Mr Farage went on: “I actually wasn’t angry, I was just shocked.
“I just couldn’t believe we could find ourselves potentially in this position.”
David Goulding, landlord of the Hoy pub in Margate where the party was held, said he had originally agreed to provide a buffet for between 35 and 50 people at a cost of £5.50 a head.
He said that he sent an invoice of £950, but was approached by a member of Ms Atkinson’s staff and asked if he would increase it.
He told Sky News: “She asked me if we would do a fictitious invoice for them to give to their sponsor, who in turn would pay it so the monies could go and help in their funds towards their political ambitions.
“They sent me an email asking me to revise the figures to the figures they gave me within the email – £20 a head for the buffet for 50 people and £25 a bottle of wine from the original estimate of £12 a bottle and some soft drinks and teas and coffees, increasing the costs for the invoice.”
The total value of the increased costs would have come to just over £3,000.
In a statement announcing the MEP’s suspension, a UKIP spokesman said: “The party is incredibly disappointed with Ms Atkinson, who appears to have exercised extremely poor judgment in acting in a way that the party has never, and would never condone.”
Ms Atkinson caused controversy last year after being caught on camera referring to a Thai constituent as a “ting tong from somewhere”.
The 52-year-old – elected to the European Parliament last year – said she was “incredibly sorry” and had not intended any malice.
Meanwhile, UKIP has suspended its Scunthorpe candidate Stephen Howd.
The party said it was was investigating “an incident” alleged to have happened at his workplace.
Politicians, of any party, should remember that it is not EU money to which they are helping themselves. The EU doesn’t have any money of its own. It is UK taxpayers’ money they are taking. They are not ‘repatriating’ British money from Brussels when they ‘liberate’ euros to which they are not legally entitled. No, they are defrauding ordinary British taxpayers like me and you.
In this case evidence appears to suggest the MEP’s chief of staff, Christine Hewitt, asked for an invoice for a much higher sum than the bill she had originally received.
In secretly filmed footage with the pub landlord, she is heard to say: “The idea is we overcharge them slightly, because that’s the way we repatriate it.”
Has anyone else noticed that Christine Hewitt’s words, as reported, imply the existence of an organized system for defrauding the European ‘parliament’, ie, British taxpayers, by regularly submitting inflated invoices, rather than a one-off indiscretion?
The question now is: for how long has this been going on? And: which other MEPs in UKIP, as well as other parties, have engaged in the practice?
This is what is commonly referred to as ‘a can of worms’.
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