Lib Dems' biggest donor stole money
Party may have to return Michael Brown's millions after he is convicted of fraud
Saturday 29 November 2008
The Liberal Democrats may be forced to pay back a record donation of £2.4m after a jury decided the party's biggest donor was a con man.
Michael Brown, a flamboyant 42-year-old who has been missing since June, was convicted of stealing millions from a former football executive and is now one of Britain's most wanted men.
The Electoral Commission is to reopen its investigation into 5th Avenue Partners Ltd, the firm Brown founded. Anti-sleaze laws forbid the receipt of donations from companies who are not "carrying on business", so it is possible the party will be required to return the money, which could badly damage its budget to fight a general election. The Los Angeles-based lawyer Robert Mann, who gave Brown $5m (£3m), is now suing the Liberal Democrats for the return of £632,000 Brown gave to the party.
Nick Clegg, the party leader, said: "We took that money in good faith. We did all the due diligence checks we could have done, totally unaware of the crimes of which Michael Brown has now been indicted. Beyond that, I can't comment."
The former Labour minister Denis MacShane said: "Michael Brown is the single biggest donor in the history of the Lib Dems and not only has he been found guilty of fraud but he has now been found guilty of theft. Surely the Lib Dems must now repay the money he donated to their campaign."
Brown, 42, tried in his absence after skipping bail, claimed he regularly visited Buckingham Palace for private meetings with Prince Andrew, pretended he was the son of a peer, posed as an international bond dealer, and promised investors returns of up to 50 per cent as reward for their faith in him.
A plethora of lies, including the assertion that he had his clients vetted by US embassy officials and Special Branch officers before accepting their money, led to him stealing $12.7m (£7.94m) from the former Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards.
Edwards was among an international array of victims who gave Brown a total of $57.7m (£36m), of which a record £2.4m was given to the Liberal Democrats. Former leader Charles Kennedy flew around Britain in Brown's private jet during the campaign for the 2005 General Election.
Brown was found guilty of theft, furnishing false information, and perverting justice. Along with a $4m (£2.6m) private jet and a £49,000 a year flat in Mayfair, London, Brown acquired a Range Rover, a Bentley, a Porsche, and a £400,000 yacht, Southwark Crown court heard.
The Glaswegian also spent £327,000 on an entertainment system for his villa in Majorca and £100,000 to upgrade the library at his gentleman's club in Belgravia, and £7,000 on fine stationery. The con man, last known to live in Templewood Avenue, Hampstead, north London, will not be sentenced until he is caught.
- 1 I was a Woman Against Feminism too
- 2 Fifty Shades of Grey movie trailer released: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
- 3 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 The Tory donor whose firm is one of Britain’s biggest tax avoiders - with HMRC's blessing
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...
£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...
£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...