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Ex-Ukip MEP in court over expenses

A former Ukip MEP has appeared before magistrates accused of a money laundering offence after a police inquiry into her travel expenses.

Nikki Sinclaire, who lost her seat in the European Parliament earlier this year, also faces a charge of committing misconduct in a public office.

Sinclaire spoke only to confirm her full name, address and date of birth during a three-minute hearing at Birmingham Magistrates' Court.

The 45-year-old, whose lawyer said she strongly denied the allegations, was not required to enter a formal plea to either of the charges.

Dressed in black trousers, a blue scarf and a dark jacket, Sinclaire, who lives in Shirley, Solihull, was granted unconditional bail to appear before a judge at Birmingham Crown Court on January 7.

Sinclaire was charged in July this year after a two-and-a-half-year inquiry by West Midlands Police and the European Anti-Fraud Office.

The money laundering charge against Sinclaire, brought under the Proceeds of Crime Act, alleges that she converted criminal property between October 2009 and December 2010.

Prosecutors further allege that Sinclaire committed misconduct between October 2009 and July 2010 "in that she made or caused to be made" false and dishonest claims for travelling expenses.

Sinclaire lost her seat as an MEP for the West Midlands in last May's European elections after leaving Ukip and standing for the We Demand a Referendum Now party.

During today's hearing, her solicitor-advocate, Regan Peggs, said both "linked" charges would be denied.

The ex-MEP has previously described the allegations as "ludicrous" and unfounded.

In a statement issued in July, Sinclaire said she would be firmly defending herself against the charges, which related to a time when she was "under the guidance and oversight" of Ukip.

In a statement issued as she left the court, Sinclaire described today's proceedings as "a complete waste of taxpayers' money".

She said: "What I can do now is reiterate what my solicitor said in court.

"Such a hearing - which is just a straightforward adjournment - should be abolished by the criminal justice system.

"But what is important here is that this arises from allegations that I made to the police about wrongdoing in my office.

"The people of the West Midlands who are watching this will know from the work I did over five years that I was hard-working.

"I completely refute these charges and I'm confident of being found innocent."

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