Police probe Lib Dem donation complaint

Police are considering whether to launch a full investigation into a complaint about the Liberal Democrats receiving £2.4 million from a donor later convicted fraud.

The donation - the largest in the party's history - was given by businessman Michael Brown through his company 5th Avenue Partners before the 2005 General Election campaign.

Brown skipped bail while awaiting a fraud trial last year and was sentenced to seven years in jail after being tried in his absence.

A spokesman for City of London Police confirmed that a complaint had been received about the donation.

"We have received a complaint against the Liberal Democrats. As is standard procedure, we are looking at it before deciding whether to launch a full investigation," he said.

The head of the economic crime unit, Detective Chief Superintendent Stephen Head, told the BBC: "On the face of it they seem to be serious allegations."

The Lib Dems have insisted the donation was received in good faith and was "properly spent" on its General Election campaign but some of Brown's victims claim the party used their stolen money.

Robert Mann, a tax lawyer in California, handed over five million dollars (£3.125 million) and is suing the Lib Dems for the return of £632,000 which Brown gave to the party.

The rest of his money was siphoned off for Brown's £2.5 million private jet.

"These monies belong to me," Mr Mann told the BBC's Newsnight programme last night. "The monies, as we found out, or a big part of them, wound up with the Liberal Democrats and, in my mind, anybody that did even a modicum of checking would have known that these monies belonged to me and not to Mr Brown.

"It's absolutely shocking how any major political party or any political party in England wouldn't want to return monies that are clearly stolen, absolutely traceable to me personally, and the individual that gave them the money is now a convicted felon."

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats said: "All our donations from 5th Avenue Partners were received in good faith and were properly spent on the General Election campaign.

"Our auditors have seen our legal advice on this matter and are satisfied that we do not need to make provision for repayment."

In November last year, Brown, 42, was found guilty at London's Southwark Crown Court of stealing millions of pounds from ex-Manchester United boss Martin Edwards.

Brown posed as an international bond dealer, pretended his father was a Lord, claimed connections with royalty, and promised investors returns of up to 50 per cent.

His numerous lies helped him pocket nearly £8 million from Mr Edwards.

He was convicted of two thefts, one count of furnishing false information and one of perverting the course of justice between February 9, 2005 and April 17, 2006.

After the jury reached its verdicts, Martin Edmunds QC, prosecuting, told them Brown had previous convictions and had twice skipped bail.

Mr Edmunds said Brown was first arrested three years earlier over allegations of perjury and making a false passport declaration following concerns by HSBC over the management of clients' cash.

The perjury involved pretending entitlement to millions of pounds in assets frozen by the bank, while the passport offence concerned replacing the one he had been ordered to hand over to police.

Shortly afterwards, he fled to his "luxury hilltop villa in Majorca" but was found, extradited and, after admitting both charges, was jailed for two years.

The barrister told jurors that following his release he was allowed bail in connection with the matters they had tried.

He said "very strict conditions" were imposed, including a £250,000 surety from one of Brown's friends, but "in July it was discovered the bird had flown". He said information suggested Brown was abroad.

After the verdicts Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg told BBC News 24 "everyone recognised" the fact that his party accepted the £2.4 million donation "in good faith".

"It has been recognised that we did all the due diligence checks we could have done, totally unaware of the crimes of which Michael Brown has now been indicted," he said.

It was initially planned to postpone sentencing until Brown was found but last month Judge James Wadsworth QC told Southwark Crown Court that an international manhunt had proved fruitless and sentenced Brown to seven years in jail.

The judge gave him three six-year sentences for theft and furnishing false information, to run concurrently, and a further year for perverting the course of justice.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need