Ukip has suspended South East MEP Janice Atkinson following accusations of financial impropriety during the party’s spring conference in Margate.
Atkinson, who was also the candidate for the Kent seat of Folkestone and Hythe which was a target seat for the party, is said to have submitted a bogus expenses claim which, according to The Sun who filmed a meeting with staff member Christine Hewitt, has been handed to Kent Police.
The lunch was a ‘women in UKIP’ event, something Atkinson held previously at the party’s 2013 conference in London which resulted in Godfrey Bloom, Mrs Atkinson’s former employer, thwacking Michael Crick over the head with a party brochure.
According to the film, the cost of the event was £950 which Ms Hewitt paid. However, the next day she attended a meeting at The Hoy pub to discuss the amount, with the pub agreeing to invoice the ADDE group which UKIP is a member of £3,150. Ms Hewitt told the pub member of staff that they marked up the actual amount to get money back from the Parliamentary group.
She wrote in an email: “Invoice is to be addressed to IDDE Group, European Parliament, Brussels
“Invoice should be sent to us either by e-mail to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to:
1 West Terrace, Folkestone, Kent CT10 1RR.
“Please include the £50 deposit that was paid on booking by me
“If possible, can you invoice us per bottle for wine, individually with appropriate mark-up for other things
“We will pay your invoice direct at the true price via our branch account then re-claim from the IDDE group.”
Ms Hewitt explained who the ADDE was, saying it is ” “part of a foundation, which, (is) where we just get a lot of European money from”.
She declined an invoice for the bill, saying she did not need one and that an amount would be sufficient, rather than an itemised bill.
As she and the restaurant’s manager go on to discuss the false invoice she says it should be made out to ADDE and IDDE.
She was told the average spend was £20 for food and £15 for drinks, a sum she agrees to, saying, “God yeah that’s more than enough.” She then took a copy of the invoice back to her office.
According to lawyer Julian Lee, Ms Hewitt appears to have committed a crime with the false invoice.
“The restaurant manager is being asked to pull together a fraudulent document, so it becomes fraud when a receipt is issued for that amount.
“If submitted it is defrauding the third party, in this case the European Union. The legal definition is ‘gaining a financial advantage by deception.”
Breitbart London have contacted Kent Police to ask if the manager of the restaurant, who came up with the figure and knowingly provided the invoice, will also be investigated.
It is not the first time Mrs Atkinson, who was second on the list in the South East region behind party leader Nigel Farage, has courted controversy for off hand, ill judged remarks. During filming for a BBC programme she referred to party members, and long time friends of Farage, as “a Ting Tong from somewhere.”
Stig Abell, managing editor of The Sun, tweeted that the suspension followed an investigation by the newspaper.
A Ukip party spokesman said the party was “incredibly disappointed with Ms Atkinson, who appears to have exercised extremely poor judgement”.
He added: “The party has acted swiftly and immediately and, just as we showed when we suspended another MEP for financial irregularities, we always maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards acts of this nature.”
In his weekly article in The Independent, Mr Farage wrote: “I suppose by the time you read this, you will already have heard about Ukip’s suspension of one of our MEPs, Janice Atkinson, on allegations of financial irregularities.
“I want to be very clear that we do not condone, and never have condoned the types of actions that this individual is on the receiving end of allegations of.
“And that’s why we as a party acted so quickly when we heard of the incident.”
The party most recently had to suspend MEP Amjad Bashir over concerns with his expenses. He has since been welcomed into the Tory Party personally by David Cameron although West Yorkshire Police are investigating a number of invoices he submitted to the party’s financial staff in Brussels.