UKIP 'misspent' EU funding on Brexit - audit
UKIP has misspent almost half a million of EU funding on its own electioneering and to help boost their Brexit campaign, according to a leaked audit seen by Sky News.
The party splurged taxpayers cash, breaking European Union spending rules, on polling in key UKIP target constituencies ahead of the General Election and also ahead of the EU referendum.
The money was provided to the European political grouping, the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe, which is dominated by Nigel Farage's party.
However, ADDE financed polling in the UK between February and December last year, which has been judged as "indirect financing of a national political party" and "a referendum campaign" - both of which are prohibited by European Parliament rules.
The report concluded: "The constituencies selected for many of the polls underline that the polls underline that the polling were conducted in the interest of UKIP.
"Most of the constituencies can be identified as being essential for reaching a significant representation in the House of Commons from the 2015 General Election or for a positive result for the 'Leave campaign'."
And on the EU referendum the auditors said: "Several polling can be considered as financing of a referendum campaign which violates 8(4) ... prohibiting the financing of referenda campaigns."
The audit, drawn up for the European Parliament Bureau, puts the total misspend at over ˆ500,615.55 (ˆ430,486.82) by ADDE, which includes other parties in Europe, but a EU spokesperson said the "lion's share" was by UKIP, amounting to over ˆ450,000 (ˆ386,961).
The money, according to the audit, was used to fund polling in Great Grimsby and Thurrock, Rochester and Strood and Cardiff South and Penarth, all UKIP target seats at the last election.
Polling was also paid for ahead of the General Election in Thanet South, where Nigel Farage unsuccessfully ran to become an MP.
And it continued after the election, to fund several EU referendum attitude polls across the UK.
A final decision by the European Parliament Bureau will be made next Monday.
If the bureau agrees with the conclusion of the external audit, UKIP could be forced to pay back more than ˆ170,000 (ˆ146,185) while not being able to claim hundreds of thousands more.
This comes at a bad time for the embattled party, whose finances are in a poor state, a situation not helped by major party donor Arron Banks threatening to stop funding UKIP.
UKIP and ADDE are investigating the claims, however, a UKIP source told Sky News they were "not surprised that it has been leaked to the press before the party has had a chance to see it".
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