Nigel Farage faces probe 'for failing to disclose payments from Arron Banks'

Rebecca Speare-Cole
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Nigel Farage faces probe 'for failing to disclose payments from Arron Banks'

Nigel Farage faces probe 'for failing to disclose payments from Arron Banks'

The European parliament will investigate a complaint alleging Nigel Farage failed to declare donations from Leave campaigner Arron Banks.

President Antonio Tajani said the Brexit Party leader has been referred to the advisory committee, the body responsible for implementing the members' code of conduct.

The allegation was made by Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder following 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.

Allegations: Arron Banks is under investigation over cash donated to a pro-Brexit campaign group (REUTERS)

Mr Tajani on Tuesday 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.

He has repeatedly denied that he took any money from Mr Banks, adding that personal expenses were none of their business.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage arrives to attend a Brexit Party campaign event in London (REUTERS)

Speaking to Channel 4 on Tuesday, he said: "I have taken no money at all. No cash at all. I might have used a 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."

One MEP will be appointed to lead an examination and write a report recommending a possible sanction.

Any punishment will be decided by the European parliament’s president, from either a reprimand to withholding a salary.

Mr Farage will be invited to comment before the committee makes a recommendation on possible sanctions. The Standard has approached Mr Farage and the Brexit Party for comment.

The investigation emerged shortly before the electoral watchdog found no wrong-doing regarding the Brexit Party's funding model following after a visit to the group's headquarters.

Mr Farage had accused the Electoral Commission of being "absolutely full of Remainers" after it announced a search of his party's offices.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage on a visit to Newcastle Upon Tyne on Monday (Getty Images)

He also claimed the regulator was staffed by establishment figures and was not a neutral organisation - and said he believed his party was "more compliant" than any others standing in the European elections.

Discussing his party's donation system, he said: "I've got a team of four qualified accountants looking after our money, our income. I bet we're more compliant than any of the other parties in this election.

"I've crossed with the Electoral Commission before - they are not a neutral organisation, absolutely full of Remainers, full of establishment figures."

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.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage addresses a European Parliament election campaign rally at Olympia London (AFP/Getty Images)

"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."

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."

Denying Mr Farage's claim that the Electoral Commission was working with Gordon Brown, the spokesman added: "Our decision to visit is not related to comments made by the former prime minister."