Published: Tue, July 17, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Brighton student fined £20k over Brexit campaign

Brighton student fined £20k over Brexit campaign

Vote Leave - the official campaign organization championing Britain's withdrawal from the European Union during the 2016 referendum - was fined £61,000 by the Commission and referred to the police after an investigation found it guilty of overspending by collaborating with BeLeave, another campaign group.

The Electoral Commission published the conclusions of its investigation into the campaign spending of Vote Leave and found "significant evidence" of coordination with another campaign group, BeLeave.

The report said the BeLeave group, which was founded by fashion student Darren Grimes, spent more than £675,000 with Aggregate IQ, a Canadian digital political advertising company, under a "common plan" with Vote Leave.

A Vote Leave spokesman responded to the report and 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".

The investigation also found that the campaign group Veterans for Britain inaccurately reported a donation it received from Vote Leave.

The Electoral Commission hit back at allegations of political bias, saying: "We open investigations where the evidence justifies it, irrespective of the political views of the party or campaigner concerned".

Vote Leave exceeded its legal spending limit of £7m by nearly £500,000, the watchdog found.

"These are serious breaches of the laws put in place by Parliament to ensure fairness and transparency at elections and referendums".

But senior Leave figures have already disputed the commission's findings.

'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.

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

The official Brexit campaign has been referred to the Metropolitan Police after being found to have committed "serious breaches" of electoral law.

"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".

He claimed he had been fined for "the wrong box being ticked on an application form" and said the fine was "entirely disproportionate and unjustified".

"The findings of the Electoral Commission are shocking and Vote Leave's actions an affront to our democracy and that fundamental British value of fair play", he told MPs.

She added, to jeers from some MPs: "The point is this: we need to be able to say to the public that are watching this debate, that we are getting on with delivering the result of the referendum in which they voted".

Matheson said Johnson and Gove, as well as other ministers or ex-ministers involved in Vote Leave such as Priti Patel and Chris Grayling, should "come to the house and explain their role in both the initial scandal and the cover-up".

"I did nothing wrong", he insisted.

I have been persecuted for over two years by powerful people for nothing more than engaging in the democratic process and having the temerity to be on the winning side. "It has been appalling for my family".

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