A law firm acting for a parliamentary committee has called for an "urgent investigation" into evidence that the campaign intentionally flouted spending laws
LONDON — There is a "prima facie" case that the official Vote Leave Brexit campaign violated electoral spending laws during the EU referendum campaign, lawyers acting for a parliamentary committee, have suggested.
In a letter published on Friday by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, lawyers at Matrix Partners called for an "urgent investigation" into evidence that the campaign, fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, intentionally flouted election spending limits by channeling additional funds through a separate but linked campaign.
"We consider that there is a prima facie case that ... electoral offences were committed by Vote Leave in the EU referendum campaign," the legal opinion said.
They added that there should be an "urgent investigation" on whether to refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service for prosecution.
Their conclusion is based on witness statements given by whistleblower Shahmir Sanni, who worked for Vote Leave, as well as two others involved in the campaign, and supporting documents and computer screen-grabs.
Sanni claimed in March that Vote Leave made a £625,000 donation to an ostensibly independent referendum campaign group called BeLeave. He said the money was then funneled to digital services firm AIQ, which he claimed was linked to Cambridge Analytica.
But Sanni said the money violated spending laws because it was not a genuine donation, but instead a means by which Vote Leave could circumvent spending limits. He said that Vote Leave actually worked closely with BeLeave and influenced its spending decisions after making its "donation," meaning the groups were not independent. Donations are not registered as spending.
The letter adds that Vote Leave "should have (but did not) report the AIQ payments in its spending return. If Vote Leave had reported those expenses, it would have exceeded its spending limit at the EU referendum."
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee is investigating the spending of main campaign groups in the referendum as part of a wider investigation into fake news.