Vote Leave has been fined £61,000 and reported to the police by the Electoral Commission after the watchdog found “significant evidence” of coordination with another campaign group, BeLeave.
The watchdog said it had imposed punitive fines on Vote Leave because it said the group had refused to cooperate fully with its investigation and declined to be interviewed. Its former chief executive, Matthew Elliott, had previously alleged it was the Electoral Commission that had refused to cooperate. Vote Leave called the findings “wholly inaccurate”.
The commission’s long-awaited report said it had found evidence BeLeave spent more than £675,000 with the digital data company Aggregate IQ coordinated with Vote Leave, which should have been declared by the Brexit campaign group.
Vote Leave, which was the official designated campaign for Britain to leave the EU during the referendum, fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, exceeded its legal spending limit of £7m by almost £500,000, the watchdog found.
Darren Grimes, the founder of BeLeave, and the Vote Leave official David Halsall have been reported to the police. Vote Leave has been fined £61,000 and Grimes £20,000.
The commission said it had shared its investigation files with the Metropolitan police to investigate whether any other offences had been committed outside the watchdog’s remit.
The commission’s full report said Vote Leave repeatedly refused to attend interviews. The watchdog said:
- Interviews were requested in November 2017, when Vote Leave indicated it could cooperate.
- Vote Leave did not respond to a request to set interview dates in December and January 2018.
- Vote Leave then sent legal letters to the Electoral Commission threatening to judicially review the opening of the investigation.
- The commission made two further offers of interview dates but said Vote Leave “began to repeat procedural questions we had already answered”.
- Vote Leave was then issued with a formal investigation notice to provide certain documents.
- The group did not reply by the deadline or produce the documents but said they could be inspected at its lawyer’s office.
- Vote Leave then made its offer of inspection of…