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Brexit group Vote Leave fined for breaking electoral law over EU campaign

A Vote Leave placard during the EU referendum campaign. Pic: PA.
A Vote Leave placard during the EU referendum campaign. Pic: PA.

Lead Brexit campaign group Vote Leave has been fined and referred to the police for breaking electoral law, the Electoral Commission has announced.

The move follows a probe into campaign spending.

Vote Leave has been fined and referred to the police for breaking electoral law.

Vote Leave has been fined and referred to the police for breaking electoral law.

The commission said its investigation found "significant evidence" of joint working between lead campaigner, Vote Leave, and another campaign group, BeLeave.

Evidence shows BeLeave spent more than £675,000 with Aggregate IQ under a common plan with Vote Leave, which should have been declared by Vote Leave, the commission said.

It means Vote Leave exceeded its legal spending limit of £7million by almost £500,000, the statement added.

"Vote Leave also returned an incomplete and inaccurate spending report, with nearly £234,501 reported incorrectly, and invoices missing for £12,849.99 of spending.

"Darren Grimes, the founder of the BeLeave campaign group, was found to have committed two offences and has been fined £20,000.

"Mr Grimes spent more than £675,000 on behalf of BeLeave, a non-registered campaigner that had a spending limit of £10,000.

"Further, he wrongly reported that same spending as his own.

"The commission has now referred both Mr David Halsall, the responsible person for Vote Leave, and Mr Grimes to the Metropolitan Police in relation to false declarations of campaign spending."

The commission imposed fines of £61,000 on Vote Leave.

Bob Posner, the Electoral Commission's director of political finance and regulation and legal counsel, said: "Vote Leave has resisted our investigation from the start, including contesting our right as the statutory regulator to open the investigation.

"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.

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

Mr Posner added: "The Electoral Commission has followed the evidence and conducted a thorough investigation into spending and campaigning carried out by Vote Leave and BeLeave.

"We found substantial evidence that the two groups worked to a common plan, did not declare their joint working and did not adhere to the legal spending limits.

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

"Our findings relate primarily to the organisation which put itself forward as fit to be the designated campaigner for the 'leave' outcome."