Leave.EU fined £70000 over Brexit spending

A woman walks past

Leave.EU fined £70000 over EU referendum funding and spending

Senior Electoral Commission officials will appear before it on May 15, he added in a tweet.

The Campaign group Leave EU has been fined £70,000 for breaches of election law in the 2016 EU referendum. This meant Leave.EU was reduced to being a second-tier campaign group, legally allowed to spend just £700,000 during the referendum campaign.

The Commission said in a press release that Leave.EU had incorrectly reported its spending during the referendum campaign, exceeded its spending limit and submitted incomplete and erroneous statements of expenditure and transactions.

The commission said Leave.EU failed to include services it received from US campaign strategy firm Goddard Gunster in a spending return.

Leave supporters cheer results at a Leave.eu party after polling stations closed in the Referendum on the European Union in London, Britain, June 23, 2016.

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It has also referred Leave.EU chief executive Liz Bilney to the police following its investigation into what it calls "serious offenses".

But the commission said it found no evidence that controversial tech firm Cambridge Analytica had made donations or provided paid-for services, and its role was limited to "initial scoping work". The Electoral Commission are proving to be completely inept at holding political parties and campaign groups to account over these issues time and time again.

'It is therefore disappointing that Leave.EU, a key player in the EU referendum, was unable to abide by these rules.

'The level of fine we have imposed has been constrained by the cap on the Commission's fines'.

The group's founder, Arron Banks, strongly disputes they did anything wrong and says they will go to court to challenge the fine.

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In February 2017, through its proactive monitoring work, the Commission became aware of suggestions that services had been provided to Leave.EU by the USA data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica and the United States campaign strategist firm Goddard Gunster.

Leave.EU, co-founded by former Ukip backer Arron Banks, overspent by at least £77,380 - 10 per cent over the limit.

The Commission also considers that the unlawful over-spend may well have been considerably higher than that.

In response, Mr Banks accused the commission of a "politically motivated attack on Brexit" and threatened to take legal action in return. It said the alleged breaches were minor and the report proved there was no "big conspiracy" around the Brexit vote. This was largely as a result of paying substantial sums to a USA political consultant, Gerry Gunster, who later introduced Banks to Donald Trump at an impromptu meeting at Trump Tower in late 2016.

Leave.EU was one of the biggest pro-Brexit groups although Vote Leave was the official campaign organisation.

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