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Nigel Farage has MEP salary docked to recoup misspent EU funds

Nigel Farage outside the European commission headquarters in Brussels.
Nigel Farage outside the European commission headquarters in Brussels. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Nigel Farage is being docked half his monthly MEP salary after a European parliament investigation alleged he had misspent public funds intended for staffing his office.

The former Ukip leader, who recently bemoaned being “53, separated and skint”, will lose €40,000 (£35,500) in total, the Guardian has learned, after European parliament auditors concluded he had misspent that amount of EU funds.

Financial controllers have been investigating the role of Christopher Adams, who was hired by Farage to work in the European parliament as his assistant.

Auditors suspended Adams’ contract last year, because they were not convinced he was working for Farage on European parliamentary matters. Although paid as Farage’s assistant, Adams was also the national nominating officer for Ukip, where he was described as one of the party’s “key people”.

“Since 1 January [2018] the European parliament has withheld 50% in order to recoup the €40,000 due in salary that was paid to Christopher Adams and which cannot be proved by Farage,” a parliamentary source told the Guardian.

Docking Farage’s pre-tax MEP salary of €8,484 a month would mean he would have repaid what officials call his “debt to the EU” by October 2018.

MEPs earn €101,808 a year before tax and receive thousands more in expenses for staff, travel and office costs. Farage’s pension is understood to be worth £73,000 a year and he will also be entitled to a transitional allowance worth £117,000 when he steps down as an MEP in 2019, as the UK leaves the EU.

Farage is one of eight Ukip MEPs who were investigated in 2017 for misuse of EU funds. One of Ukip’s most senior figures, Roger Helmer, stood down last summer after an investigation that resulted in a demand to repay about £100,000 for alleged misuse of public funds. Helmer, who gave no explanation of his decision to stand down halfway through the parliamentary term, has always denied wrongdoing. Two other investigations into Ukip MEPs were closed without any action.

A spokesman for Ukip’s bloc in the parliament, the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group, said: “There is a vindictive campaign by the European parliament of selective persecution of Eurosceptic MEPs, parties and groups. This allegation is all part of their politically-motivated assault.”

Farage has the right to appeal at the European court of justice.

Under EU rules, full-time MEP assistants are not allowed to do paid work for a national political party. Part-time assistants need to have second jobs, paid and voluntary, vetted by European parliament authorities to prevent a conflict of interest.

Farage, who has been an MEP for 18 years, has one of the worst attendance records at the parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg. He is ranked 748 out of 751 MEPs and has taken part in only 37% of votes in the current parliamentary session, according to VoteWatch Europe.

The European parliament has played an unsung role in Ukip’s success, giving the party funding and a platform it struggled to get in British elections. European parliamentary authorities have in recent years paid closer attention to how MEPs spend EU funds, after years of assuming parties would do the right thing.

In 2016 a Ukip-dominated group was denied €501,000 in EU funds after it emerged European money had been funnelled into the attempts to win Farage a seat in the 2015 UK general election.

Farage told the journalist Michael Crick last September that he had not been paid his MEP salary for several months because of the dispute over Ukip spending, but the parliament source said that was not true.

Marine Le Pen is under formal investigation by French magistrates, after she refused to repay nearly €300,000 of EU funds, following a European parliament investigation into EU funds spent by the far-right Front National leader.

This article titled "Nigel Farage has MEP salary docked to recoup misspent EU funds" was written by Jennifer Rankin Brussels correspondent, for The Guardian on Friday 12 January 2018 04.19pm

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