Leave.EU fined £70,000 for breaking electoral laws during EU referendum
Chief executive Liz Bilney faces police probe after pro-Brexit group failed to disclose £77,380 in expenditure
The campaign group Leave.EU has been fined £70,000 for breaches of electoral law during the EU referendum campaign, with the group’s chief executive referred to the Metropolitan Police over spending irregularities.
The Electoral Commission handed down the penalty – the maximum fine it’s able to issue – after announcing the findings of their investigation on Friday.
The pro-Brexit group, which was separate from the official Leave campaign fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, was found to have delivered incomplete and inaccurate accounts of its outgoing expenditure during the EU referendum campaign. Its spending was found to have exceeded the statutory limit of £700,000.
Leave.EU reportedly failed to include at least £77,380 in its spending return, but the Electoral Commission believes the overspend may have been considerably higher than this, Sky News reports.
Leave.EU chief executive Liz Bilney has now been referred to the Metropolitan Police after the Electoral Commission said it had reasonable grounds to suspect she “knowingly or recklessly signed a false declaration accompanying the Leave.EU referendum spending return”.
The London Evening Standard writes that the group, which was endorsed by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, also inaccurately reported three loans worth £6m it received from its founder, the millionaire and arch-Brexiteer Arron Banks.
Banks’s response to the findings was combative, with the businessman threatening to take legal action against the commission.
“We view the Electoral Commission announcement as a politically motivated attack on Brexit and the 17.4m people who defied the establishment to vote for an independent Britain,” he said, adding: “We will see them in court.”