Saturday, November 29, 2008
Our LibDem friends must be getting a bit nervous. Their former best mate, Michael Brown (still wanted by the authorities) was convicted of fraud worth £36 million.
Legal action for the return of that illegally-obtained money is already in progress and is likely to accelerate now that the trial is over - sentencing will be delayed until Mr Brown is apprehended.
The Lib Dems repeat the mantra that they were cleared by the Electoral Commission and were entitled to regard the donation as permissible - even though it actually came through a non-trading front company as Mr Brown lived abroad and thus could not donate personally. As with many Lib Dem statements, this is true up to a point.
On the charge of accepting an impermissible donation, the Electoral Commission has indeed cleared the party - although training and process changes followed the investigation - so that no punishment for actually banking the cheque will follow. However, it remains that the donation was unquestionably impermissible - the donor was not registered to vote in the UK and 5th Avenue Partners was not 'trading' in the UK in any recognisable way, so neither could donate. Accordingly, the law states that the donation should be forfeit. No ifs, buts or maybes. The Electoral Commission confirmed to me a while ago that this aspect of the case remained under investigation - pending legal action. When this is pointed out to the Lib Dems, they squirm and say that they can't hand it back because they've spent it. Which is a a defence known to be as reliable and effective as a chocolate fireguard.