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17th Jul 2018

Vote Leave fined and reported to police for ‘breaking electoral law’

The Electoral Commission has referred the nominated Brexit campaign to the police

Oli Dugmore

The Electoral Commission has referred the nominated Brexit campaign to the police

Vote Leave has been referred to the police and fined £61,000 by the Electoral Commission.

A probe by the commission said the nominated Brexit campaign broke electoral law, after it discovered “significant evidence” that Vote Leave coordinated with another campaign group called BeLeave.

This “joint working” allowed Vote Leave to exceed its legal spending limit of £7 million by more than £500,000. The report reveals that BeLeave coordinated with Vote Leave to spend more than £675,000 with data firm AggregateIQ – spending which was not reported by the campaign.

PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND - MAY 13: Conservative MP and Minister of State for Employment, Priti Patel (R) and Penny Mordaunt, Minister of State for the Armed Forces and Conservative MP for Portsmouth North (L) hold up Vote Leave posters with supporters in front of the Vote Leave battle bus as it stops in Portsmouth on May 13, 2016 in Portsmouth, England. Portsmouth City Council members voted in March in favour of a motion declaring that the UK would be better off outside the EU declaring that Portsmouth should vote to leave the EU in the referendum to be held on Thursday June 23. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

BeLeave’s founder Darren Grimes has also been fined £20,000 and referred to the police, having been found to have incorrectly reported spending and breaking the limit by £665,000.

Vote Leave also returned an “incomplete and inaccurate spending report.” Close to £234,501 was reported incorrectly with invoices missing for £12,849.99.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 24: Leader of UKIP and Vote Leave campaign Nigel Farage arrives to speak to the assembled media at College Green, Westminster following the results of the EU referendum on June 24, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. The result from the historic EU referendum has now been declared and the United Kingdom has voted to LEAVE the European Union. (Photo by Mary Turner/Getty Images)

The Electoral Commission

Bob Posner, of the Electoral Commission, said: “The Electoral Commission has followed the evidence and conducted a thorough investigation into spending and campaigning carried out by Vote Leave and BeLeave.

“We found substantial evidence that the two groups worked to a common plan, did not declare their joint working and did not adhere to the legal spending limits. These are serious breaches of the laws put in place by Parliament to ensure fairness and transparency at elections and referendums.

“Vote Leave has resisted our investigation from the start, including contesting our right as the statutory regulator to open the investigation. It has refused to cooperate, refused our requests to put forward a representative for interview, and forced us to use our legal powers to compel it to provide evidence.

“Nevertheless, the evidence we have found is clear and substantial, and can now be seen in our report.”

BATLEY, ENGLAND - JUNE 18: A young rides his scooter past a 'Vote Leave' poster in the back alley next to his home in the West Yorkshire town of Batley, in the constituency of murdered MP Jo Cox on June 18, 2016 in Batley, United Kingdom. The Labour MP for Batley and Spen was about to hold her weekly constituency surgery in Birstall Library last Thursday (June 16, 2016) when she was shot and stabbed in the street. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Vote Leave

A Vote Leave spokesman said: “The Electoral Commission’s report contains a number of false accusations and incorrect assertions that are wholly inaccurate and do not stand up to scrutiny.

“It is astonishing that nobody from Vote Leave has been interviewed by the commission in the production of this report, nor indeed at any point in the past two years. Yet the commission has interviewed the so-called ‘whistleblowers’ who have no knowledge of how Vote Leave operated and whose credibility has been seriously called into question.

“Vote Leave has provided evidence to the Electoral Commission proving there was no wrongdoing. And yet despite clear evidence of wrongdoing by the Remain campaign, the commission has chosen to ignore this and refused to launch an investigation.

“All this suggests that the supposedly impartial commission is motivated by a political agenda rather than uncovering the facts.

“The commission has failed to follow due process, and in doing so has based its conclusions on unfounded claims and conspiracy theories.

“We will consider the options available to us, but are confident that these findings will be overturned.”