Former MEP faces ‘judgement day’ in ECJ hearing
By Martin Banks – 22nd March 2011
Former UK MEP Den Dover will go to court later this week to contest a decision that he should repay part of his parliamentary expenses.
The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg is expected to give its ruling on the case on Thursday.
Parliament says that between 1999 and 2008 it paid a total of just over €1m to a company called MP Holdings Ltd which listed as its directors Den Dover’s wife and daughter.
The money came from the allowance intended to pay the salaries and costs of a MEPs‘ staff and Dover’s company was supposed to administer it independently.
Questions about the arrangements started to be asked in 2006 but it was not until 2008 that parliament’s secretary general suggested that there was a conflict of interest and asked for details of the actual expenditure.
In October, the secretary general ruled that for the period August 1999 to June 2008 only €482,000 could be justified as having been paid in salaries, national insurance and legitimate staff travel expenses.
On Tuesday, a parliament spokesman told this website, “We will wait for the decision of the court. If the court supports parliament’s position, then parliament will continue steps to recover the funds from the former MEP.
“However, parliament has no powers to prosecute anyone.”
UK Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies has campaigned for more transparency in MEPs’ pay and allowances and has taken a particular interest in the Dover case.
Davies said, “I hope that most people elected to parliament know the difference between right and wrong, honourable and dishonourable behaviour, without having to have it laid down by law. But the fact is that some do not – as recent ‘cash for amendments’ – revelations suggest.“
He said the scale of abuse that “seems to have become common practice” amongst some MEPs was revealed in a secret report by parliament’s internal auditor in June 2008.
Davies said, “I was one of the few MEPs who had the chance, as a member of the budgetary control committee, to read the report in a sealed room.
“The report led to changes which have very significantly curbed the abuse of the secretarial allowance payments, but disgracefully, parliament is still requesting that the Court of Justice keeps the auditor’s report secret. This is ridiculous given that it can be found on the internet.
“So Den Dover might well feel very hard done by to have been fingered and chased by parliament when so many others seem to have got away with it.
“Indeed, I think he could have got away with it himself if he hadn’t tried to be clever and make payments through an ‘independent’ company.
“My interpretation of the rules that applied at the time is that he could have legitimately paid the entire allowance to his wife in her capacity as his secretary. She could have been the best paid secretary in the world but the payments wouldn’t have been challenged.”
He went on, “On Thursday we find out whether the court agrees that the financial abuse was flagrant and the money must be repaid.
“Alternatively, the court could just agree that the parliamentary rules were so lax for years that it would not be fair to demand retrospective repayments now.”
The case before the ECJ is administrative not criminal, but if Den Dover is required to repay the money does it end there?
“In Britain, MPs have gone to jail for wrongly claiming €22,000. What length of imprisonment would be justified by false claims for €573,000?”
Or another take on the issue:
Tomorrow is judgement day for former UK Conservative MEP Den Dover (North West region). The European Parliament is demanding that he repay £538,290 that it alleges was wrongly claimed by him between 1999 and 2008. He is contesting the decision and the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg is about to give its ruling.The Parliament says that over this period it paid a total of £959,446 to a company called MP Holdings Ltd which had as directors Dover’s wife and daughter. The money came from the allowance intended to pay the salaries and costs of an MEPs’ staff, and the company was supposed to administer it independently and at arm’s length from the MEP, although it seems that Dover’s staff included his wife and daughter (part-time)Questions about the arrangements started to be asked in 2006 but it was not until 2008 that the Parliament’s Secretary-General suggested that there was a conflict of interest and asked for details of the actual expenditure. In October the Secretary-General ruled that for the period August 1999 to June 2008 only £421,156 could be justified as having been paid in salaries, national insurance and legitimate staff travel expenses.So what does the Parliament consider was illegitimate expenditure?£101,068 for three cars£15,404 for office supplies and equipment, £89,235 for postage and stationery, £100,735 for the costs of rent and renovation of Den Dover’s ‘office’, which just happened to be in his private home, and £20,767 for telephone costs (MEPs get a separate allowance for all these office expenses, and none of them are supposed to be paid from the staff budget)£17,880 for ‘entertainment expenses’And (just) £200 in donations to the Conservative Party (!!!).The Parliament says that the rest of the money it wants back represents the costs of VAT that the company apparently failed to pay to the UK’s HMRC.Dover’s defence seems mainly be to challenge the figures, claim that the Parliament should prove that the money was wrongly spent rather than force him to prove that it was properly used, and declare that the European Parliament had never made absolutely clear that MEPs might have to produce evidence of how the money had been spent. He says that the Parliament went along with the arrangements for years without challenging them or suggesting that procedures needed to be tightened.I hope that most people elected to the European Parliament know the difference between right and wrong, honourable and dishonourable behaviour, without having to have it laid down by law. But the fact is that some do not – as recent ‘Cash for Amendments’ – revelations suggest.The scale of abuse that seems to have become common practice amongst some MEPs was revealed in a secret report by the Parliament’s internal auditor in June 2008.The report led to changes which have very significantly curbed the abuse of the secretarial allowance payments, but disgracefully the Parliament is still requesting that the Court of Justice keeps the auditor’s report secret – ridiculous given that it can be found on the internet.So Dover might well feel very hard done by to have been fingered and chased by the Parliament when so many others seem to have got away with it. Indeed, I think he could have got away with it himself if he hadn’t tried to be clever and make payments through an ‘independent’ company.Tomorrow we find out whether the Court agrees that the financial abuse was flagrant and the money must be repaid, or whether it agrees that the parliamentary rules were so lax for years that it would not be fair to demand retrospective repayments now – in which case there may be many MEPs who will wonder why we stuck not only by the rules but by the principles of financial transparency and honesty when we could have just pocketed £100,000 or two every year as some cheating bastards did.
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I wonder if Nigel Farage will be considered liable under the same rules having dishonestly and corruptly paid a family member around £30,000 a year, put a block entry in his constituency office of £211,000 for office sundries, which amounted to over 50% of the expenses and paid £6,000 to have an accountant sign off the books which were fully drawn up. Condoned and colluded in the payment of around £250,000 from a UKIP enterprise into a private bank account, paid £250,000 into one of his own off shore banks in a single cheque – the list of, if not criminal, downright suspicious transfers of money in a clandestine manner is far from short!
Then of course there was the claim made as a boast to Denis McShane regarding personal profit over and above his salary and incurred expenses that he would guess he had trousered around £2 Million at that stage.
There is of course the detail of the fact that at the time Nigel Farage claimed that the various apparent scams he was involved in regarding Ashford Employment, in its various ‘guises’, that it was THE most profitable activity UKIP had ever engaged in – meanwhile The Chairman of UKIP at the time David Bannerman, claimed that less than 15% of the money raised had ever reached UKIP’s account!
No doubt were he honest Douglas Denny could throw much light on this, as he would seem to be patsy for much of the fantasies that surround UKIP accounts, having been for a period Party Secretary and the Treasurer for Nigel Farage’s EU Region. Sadly we are unlikely to get any honest answers from Douglas Denny who has a long track record of dishonesty, fantasy and abuse.
Was the truth behind what seems to be outright scams within UKIP – including the various rip offs and failure to account 100s of £1,000 of tax payers money in Petitions that were never held yet were provided with tax payers’ money and various other scams that would seem to have been funded by UKIP members unwittingly.
Was this the reason why Nigel Farage deliberately engineered the removal of Martin Hasslam which coincidentally involved Nigel Farage’s family friend and in fact protege in UKIP Buster Motrom.
The amount of quite blatant money laundering that has involved what seems very clearly to be a criminal element that have control of the leadership of UKIP is to those of us who had hoped for probity and integrity of UKIP, quite shamefull.
Break ins, thefts from offices, trousering of public money, false witness, lies about elected members and deliberate smear campaigns, desperate attemts by the filth gathered as leadership to try to defame me – all of which have spectacularly failed as not one single fact I have published in 1,000s of postings has EVER been proven wron, dishonest or misleading – then there is the harrassment and abuse of members who seek answers and a relatively indifferent police force seemingly too bone idle to investigate the thefts and fiddles of these politicians and their parasites.