European Parliament to investigate Nigel Farage over donation complaint
The move comes as a separate review of the Brexit Party’s funding model by the electoral watchdog found no wrongdoing.
A complaint alleging Nigel Farage failed to declare donations from Leave campaigner Arron Banks will be investigated by the European Parliament.
The allegation, made by Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder to European Parliament president Antonio Tajani, follows reports by Channel 4 News that Mr Banks spent around £450,000 on Mr Farage in the year following the EU referendum in 2016.
Under EU rules, MEPs must declare payments made to them, or other support given by third parties.
On Tuesday, Mr Tajani referred the issue to an advisory committee of five MEPs that investigates the conduct of members.
Mr Farage will be invited to comment before the committee, which will not sit until June 4 at the earliest, after this month’s European elections, a parliament source said.
When confronted by Channel 4 News on Tuesday about the alleged donation, Mr Farage told the broadcaster: “I’ve taken no money at all, no cash at all of any kind, zero.
“I might have used the house. I have been to a party in America but I’ve taken no money at all.”
When asked if he should have declared anything, Mr Farage replied: “No. Because it’s nothing to do with politics.”
The investigation emerged shortly before a separate review of the Brexit Party’s funding model by the electoral watchdog found no wrong-doing after a visit to the group’s headquarters.
I have taken no money at all, no cash at all of any kind, zero Nigel Farage to Channel 4 News
In an earlier interview with the Press Association, Mr Farage labelled Channel 4 News “political activists”, after its investigation into his finances.
And he accused the Electoral Commission of being “absolutely full of Remainers” after the watchdog announced a search of his party’s offices.
After the review on Tuesday, a party spokesman said: “The Electoral Commission, after an interim confirmation during the day that it had no evidence of any electoral offences, reconfirmed at the end of the inspection that it has not seen any evidence of electoral offences.
“We are pleased, but not surprised. We are keen to be as transparent as possible.
“To that end, in recent weeks, we have invited representatives from various media organisations to inspect our donation systems…
“We believe in continuous improvement and welcome constructive recommendations from the Electoral Commission to enhance our processes and procedures.”
He confirmed his party had barred access to Channel 4 News, saying he had “lost respect” for the public broadcaster.
The editor of Channel 4 News, Ben de Pear, said on Twitter: “We hope to resolve our access ban from Brexit Party events ASAP.”
We hope to resolve our access ban from Brexit Party events ASAP. We were unaware of the 6-week ban until last Thursday when we broadcast this Nigel Farage investigation, revealing he had been bankrolled by £450k from Arron Banks. Until then we had full access, including to Farage https://t.co/giVSm2CIxg— Ben de Pear (@bendepear) May 21, 2019
An Electoral Commission spokesman defended the visit to take “a closer look” at the systems the party has in place to receive funds, which he said was “right and proper” for a regulator.
He said: “We have not seen evidence of electoral offences, but the law in this area is complex and we want to satisfy ourselves that the party’s systems are robust.
The spokesman insisted the watchdog had “not deviated from our usual approach”.
He added: “We are an independent and impartial organisation which is accountable to Parliament.
“We regulate as is proportionate to the issue, regardless of a party’s politics.
“Our decision to visit is not related to comments made by the former prime minister.”