Britain's euroskeptic UKIP party may have to repay 170,000 euros for alleged misspending of EU funds on its own campaign, according to British media. Top EU parliamentary officials discuss the issue next week.
Britain's "Guardian" newspaper and Sky News reported Thursday that EU auditors questioned UKIP spending money on polling within Britain early last year that had been earmarked for its larger European alliance.
A spokesman for the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE), which is dominated by UKIP's European members of Parliament (MEPs), promptly accused the EU Commission of conducting a "hostile" audit.
Expenditures were "compliant to EU regulations," the ADDE spokesman said.
The audit covered only 2015 and did not include the months directly leading up to Britain's narrow referendum vote in June, in which UKIP lobbied for a "Brexit," or exit from Europe's 28-nation bloc.
Leaked copies of the audit quoted by the two British media outlets claimed that UKIP spent the funds mainly to assess voting intentions in British constituencies. Further polling sought to gauge sentiment for UKIP's leave campaign.
The audit pointed out that the European ADDE was neither involved in Britain's national election in early 2015 nor in the referendum preparations.
Farage denies misspending
Interviewed by Sky News, UKIP's current interim head Nigel Faragedescribed the probe as "pure victimization," denying that his election strategist, Chris Bruni-Lowe, had used EU money.
Instead, electioneering in Britain had been paid for using UKIP money, he said.
Meeting next Monday
European Parliament sources on Thursday said the audit report will be discussed by European Parliament President Martin Schulz and senior MEPs at a meeting next Monday.
The European ADDE is still in line to receive about 820,000 euros in EU funds for its spending in 2015.
ipj/sms (dpa, AFP)