Norfolk Euro MP in donor scandal
A Norfolk Euro MP is facing calls for his conduct to be investigated amid claims he spelled out ways that potential supporters could bypass election rules and keep details of large donations secret.
The Sunday Times claimed Stuart Agnew and Ukip party leader Lord Pearson of Rannoch suggested ways to flout Electoral Commission rules to give cash to its general election campaign fund.
Mr Agnew, a farmer from Helhoughton, near Fakenham, who was elected to Brussels last year, reportedly told an undercover reporter a person could remain anonymous by channelling funds through an unincorporated association called Global Britain, which was set up by Lord Pearson in 1997.
Electoral Commission rules state unincorporated associations, which do not have to file accounts, can make donations to political parties but the money must not be channelled from an individual who is seeking to remain anonymous.
In the Sunday Times, Mr Agnew was recorded as saying: “I’ve spoken to Nigel Farage (Ukip MEP and former party leader) and he says at the moment you can put £25,000 into Global Britain and you will remain anonymous.”
Mr Agnew suggested that other ways of keeping a potential donor’s identity secret included giving money as a gift to another person who then donated it.
He went on: “Your mother can make you a loan of £100,000 to buy a house … and you would then become a donor to the party for £100,000 and your name would go up on the Electoral Commission website.”
When the real donor died, she could state in her will the loan was now a gift. “You are seen to be the donor rather than her,” he added.
Another undercover reporter spoke to Lord Pearson who said the money given to Global Britain would be passed “straight on” to Ukip.
Asked if he could guarantee the donor’s name would not come out he said: “Yes, we did it in the European elections (in 2009). We passed on £80,000 from one person in effect … and that caused no difficulty at all.”
When confronted later Lord Pearson reportedly told the paper he would have given the donor’s name to the Electoral Commission.
Mr Agnew, who is standing as a general election candidate for Ukip in the Broadland constituency, could not be contacted by the EDP yesterday.
But Labour MEP Richard Howitt, last night called for a full investigation in to the issue.
“I will be raising it with the Electoral Commission first thing on Tuesday,” Mr Howitt said. “It’s always been true that of all the British parties in the European Parliament, Ukip has been the least open and transparent.
“I’m extremely concerned because Ukip has two seats in the East of England, which may have been based on donations which may in fact have been illegal.”
Lord Pearson also branded some Ukip members “Neanderthals” and said Mr Agnew, 60, was “one of our only really sane MEPs”.
It is not the first time that a Ukip MEP in the region has hit the headlines over financial matters.
Last year former Ukip MEP Tom Wise was jailed for two years for fraudulently claiming £39,000 of EU parliamentary expenses.