In July 2018, the Electoral Commission watchdog found that Vote Leave and other pro-Brexit campaigners broke the law.
But months later, openDemocracy has revealed that the Metropolitan Police haven’t even begun investigating such campaigns, because of “political sensitivities”.
Vote Leave’s campaign committee included former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and other current cabinet ministers.
“Serious breaches of the laws”
The Electoral Commission fined Vote Leave £61,000 for overspending on the campaign. The Electoral Commission’s legal counsel Bob Posner described the overspending as “serious breaches of the laws put in place by parliament to ensure fairness and transparency at elections and referendums”. The watchdog found that Vote Leave used another campaign, BeLeave, as a front for more spending:
Evidence shows that BeLeave spent more than £675,000 with Aggregate IQ under a common plan with Vote Leave. This spending should have been declared by Vote Leave. It means Vote Leave exceeded its legal spending limit of £7 million by almost £500,000.
Vote Leave also returned an incomplete and inaccurate spending report, with nearly £234,501 reported incorrectly, and invoices missing for £12,849.99 of spending.
As well as Johnson, Vote Leave campaign’s committee included secretary for international trade Liam Fox, Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, transport secretary Chris Grayling, and leader of the house Andrea Leadsom.
“An extraordinary scandal”
Even though Posner described the evidence against Vote Leave as “clear and substantial”, the Met Police aren’t investigating.
The Guardian‘s Carole Cadwalladr, who broke the scandal, tweeted:
This is an extraordinary scandal. Met police confirm they have been sitting on evidence for months. What on earth is going on? @theresa_may MUST answer questions on this immediately. Jaw dropping pic.twitter.com/MlZkTKWemd
— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) October 11, 2018
Whistleblower Shamir Sanni, who exposed Vote Leave’s overspending, tweeted:
Tonight @BBCNewsnight covered Tommy Robinson, a man that spews Nazi-rhetoric, AGAIN. They’ve given him more coverage than the entire Vote Leave scandal: the biggest electoral scandal in our history. The BBC isn’t just embarrassing, it has become dangerous. Find other news sources
— Shahmir Sanni (@shahmiruk) October 11, 2018
Reacting to the stalled investigation, barrister Jolyon Maugham QC told openDemocracy:
If the MPS are delaying an investigation into a likely crime because of political interference then ‘scandal’ does not begin to cover it. Were that true, we would be living in a police state where criminality was overlooked – if that criminality was expedient to the government.
It’s hard not to agree with the essence of that. The last people who should be above the law are the powerful. They have the most influence.
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