The Liberal Democrats are facing a possible investigation by the Electoral Commission over allegations of illegal donations organised by one of the party’s ‘rising stars’.
The Daily Telegraph reported Ibrahim Taguri telling an undercover reporter posing as a rich Indian businessman that he could donate money to the party via a “cousin” in order to keep a low profile.
The scandal has forced Mr Taguri to step down from his position as Lib Dem candidate for Brent Central as well as his role as Nick Clegg’s spokesman on racial equality.
The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 states that a registered party must not accept a donation if
‘ (a) the person by whom the donation would be made is not, at the time of its receipt by the party, a permissible donor; or (b) the party is (whether because the donation is given anonymously or by reason of any deception or concealment or otherwise) unable to ascertain the identity of that person.’
If the investigation finds that they have done this then the party would have to forfeit the donation to the Treasury and the treasurer of the party, in this instance Ian Wrigglesworth, is guilty of an offence.
The undercover reporter was also advised by Mr Taguri, who was appointed as the party’s chief fundraiser in 2009, to ensure the party had enough resources for the 2010 general election, to spread gifts among other family members and even backdate a cheque to the party. These measures would have allowed the true source of the donation to remain hidden from the official register of political donations which is available on the electoral commission’s website.
Mr Taguri accepted the cheque for £7,500 on behalf of the party earlier this month and said the money would “open doors”: sure enough he then invited the undercover reporter to a dinner and a private meeting with Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
In 2013 he was selected to fight the Lib Dem-held seat of Brent Central after Sarah Tether announced she would not seek re-election. It’s a key marginal for the party, which only has a majority of 1,345.
When confronted with the accusations that he had been involved in improper practises, Mr Taguri denied any wrong doing and said he had been as transparent as possible. He added that the cheque had not been cashed.
He also said the version of events was different to the one relayed by the undercover reporter, saying he thought the “cousin” had given his own money and was “publicly declaring all donations”.
“I will continue my campaign to become the next MP for Brent Central as an independent candidate with the intention of achieving the one thing I entered politics to do, to end child poverty in the UK by 2020,” he added.
“I look forward to clearing my name and returning to the Liberal Democrats.”
A spokesman for the party said the donation “would have been subject to a series of checks and procedures to ensure it met all legal requirements” if it had been received.
“We firmly reject any suggestion that Danny Alexander or any other Liberal Democrat parliamentarian has acted in any way improperly,” she said.
“Ibrahim Taguri has rightly stood down as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Brent Central and from any formal role within the party.”
“We have now referred this matter to the Electoral Commission to determine whether any wrongdoing has been committed.”
The party added that it will not accept the donation.
This is not the first time the Lib Dems have been involved in a donation scandal: Michael Brown, a convicted fraudster who was living in Spain and not on the UK electoral register, donated £2.4 million to the party via his company, 5th Avenue Partners Ltd in 2005.
An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: “We are aware of what’s been reported this morning and are establishing the facts before determining what further steps to take”