A new investigation about whether election spending rules were broken by one of the main pro-Brexit campaign groups was opened by the UK electoral regulator.
Recently, there had been new evidence that were presented which questioned the earlier decision of the Commission earlier this year of not taking any punitive action over the payments that were allegedly made to student campaigner Darren Grimes and a separate group Veterans for Britain. The Electoral Commission said it had decided to reopen the investigations into the Vote Leave payment case.
AggregateIQ is a data analysis agency which was entrusted to make a targeted Facebook marketing campaign before the Brexit vote in June and it is alleged that Vote Leave paid £675,000 to the firm through fashion student Grimes to settle its services bill. £100,000 was given to Veterans for Britain which is also a separate group by Vote Leave.
Because the Commission had not managed to establish any linkage between Vote Leave and Grimes about them working together, therefore in March of this year, it had decided not take any action even though it had found that rules were broken. Under the European Union Referendum Act 2015, a collusion between the two parties spending the amount that they did would not have been allowed otherwise.
The Commission said it has: “opened an investigation to establish whether Vote Leave Limited, Mr Darren Grimes and/or Veterans for Britain breached campaign finance rules in relation to spending at the 2016 EU referendum”.
The reopening of the case has preceded by conducting a review of its earlier assessment in March 2017, the Commission said. The regulatory authority has enforcement powers to conduct investigation into alleged breaches and is endowed with powers of imposing of a range of sanctions or it can pass over the case to be followed up by the police or the prosecuting authorities.
“Since that time, new information has come to light which, when considered alongside the information obtained previously, has given the Commission reasonable grounds to suspect an offence may have been committed.”
Whether or not Grimes and Veterans for Britain “may have delivered a return that was incorrect in relation to a donation he received from Vote Leave and related campaign spending” will be the focus of the new investigation along with allegations that there was incorrect declaration of its campaign spending by Vote Leave and the whether the spending limit was exceeded by Vote Leave for the referendum.
“It is possible that during the course of the investigation, the Commission will identify potential contraventions and/or offences under PPERA other than those set out above.”
Bob Posner, the Commission’s director of political finance and regulation and legal counsel, said: “There is significant public interest in being satisfied that the facts are known about Vote Leave’s spending on the campaign, particularly as it was a lead campaigner with a greater spending limit than any other campaigners on the ‘leave’ side.
“Legitimate questions over the funding provided to campaigners risks causing harm to voters’ confidence in the referendum and it is therefore right that we investigate.”
(Adapted from Digitallook.com)