The cheques that led to a funding storm for Nick Clegg.
Convicted fraudster and the largest ever single donor to the Liberal Democrats Michael Brown, is being extradited to the UK.
In 2005 Michael Brown’s company, 5th Avenue Partners Limited, donated nearly £2.4Million to the Liberal Democrats. Many say the donation was made using the proceeds of crime.
Over the years, numerous people have called on the Lib Dems to repay the money to the victims of Brown. Nick Clegg has claimed, with some justification, that his party didn’t know Brown was a fraudster at the time of accepting the donation. Mr Clegg was on far shakier ground when he claimed Liberal Democrats had conducted rigorous due diligence before accepting the money. Here’s a quote from Mr Clegg from a few years ago:
“If you’d said to me, if you could show me that the party then several years ago, hadn’t taken the checks, hadn’t made the checks, hadn’t done the research necessary to check whether we were eligible to take money from him, then you’re quite right. I think we would have to seek to pay the money back if we had that money to pay back”
This is difficult to square with the facts of the case. Below is a draft document prepared by Michael Brown and in the possession of the police. It clearly shows that contrary to Mr Clegg’s claims, Brown did not believe that adequate due diligence had been conducted when the donation was made. The document has “draft” written on it, so I do not know whether it was ever sent to the Lib Dems.
Had the party asked to see rudinmentary accounts of Mr Brown’s company they would have discovered it was a “shell” – used only for the purposes to donate to the national party.
I’m not an expert on electoral or company law but the accounts below seem to prove that the nearly all the transactions made by Brown’s “shell company” were to the Lib Dems.
There may be a plausible explanation as to why the electoral commission chose not to act on this matter. Looking at these documents, it is hard to fathom what it is.
And reading Mr Clegg’s previous words on this subject, it’s hard not to conclude that the money should be repaid. Clearly, Mr Clegg’s party failed to conduct all proper checks. He said in these circumstances the money would be repaid. That hasn’t happened – yet.