Electoral Commission investigates Ukip for potential financial abuse

Ukip has already been in the news for being investigated by European authorities of allegations of abuse of European funding for electioneering. Now the Electoral Commission is looking at the funds too:

The Electoral Commission has opened an investigation regarding the UK Independence Party (UKIP) to ascertain whether the party accepted impermissible donations from the European political party the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE) and its affiliated foundation the Initiative for Direct Democracy in Europe (IDDE).

ADDE and its affiliate IDDE, as with other European political parties and foundations, can receive grant funding from the European Union (EU). This funding can cover up to 85% of the parties’ eligible expenditure and be used for a range of activity, from administrative functions through to the campaign costs connected to European elections. It cannot, however, be used for a range of other specified purposes, including for the direct or indirect funding of national parties, election candidates and political foundations at either the national or European level. More information about the EU’s rules can be found here.

On the evening of 21 November, the European Parliament advised the Commission that following its annual audit and inspection of the funding provided to European Parties in 2015, it has formally concluded that ADDE and IDDE used EU grant funding for the benefit of UKIP in breach of its rules and therefore, these expenses were declared as non-eligible for the financing. The Commission has in recent weeks already met with representatives of the European Parliament and inspected material that it gathered as part of its audit.

The Commission has now opened its own investigation into UKIP to look at whether there has been any breach of UK election law. This includes whether any impermissible donations have been accepted by the party.

Donations and loans to political parties are regulated under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA). A donation is money, goods or services given to a political party without charge or on non-commercial terms, with a value of over £500.

Parties must record the donations and loans they receive, check they are from a permissible source, and report certain donations and loans to the Electoral Commission. If donations and loans are not from a permissible source, a party has thirty days to return the donation and must report the impermissible donation to the Commission.

The time taken to complete an investigation varies on a case-by-case basis. Once the investigation is complete, the Commission will decide whether any breaches have occurred and if so what further action may be appropriate.

The Commission will conduct the investigation in line with its Enforcement Policy and will issue a press release at the conclusion of the case setting out what has happened, including whether any offences have been committed.

UPDATE: Two years later

The Electoral Commission has today published the conclusions of its investigation into whether the UK Independence Party (UKIP) took certain impermissible donations from a European political party and foundation.

The Commission has not found offences on the evidence available.

Commenting on the outcome of the investigation, Bob Posner, Director of Political Finance and Regulation & Legal Counsel at the Electoral Commission, said:

“We undertook a thorough investigation that involved analysing a significant volume of evidence, as well as conducting interviews with a number of individuals. For an offence to be found, we must be satisfied that the burden of proof meets a criminal standard. We were not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that UKIP took impermissible donations in this case. Should new evidence come to light that makes it appropriate for us to look again at this matter, we will do so.”

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