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Last Updated: Friday, 17 August 2007, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
MEP found guilty of fraud charges
Ashley Mote
MEP Ashley Mote has been found guilty of 17 counts of fraud
An MEP for South East England has been convicted of 21 charges of fraud.

Ashley Mote, 71, had started claiming income support and benefits after his business collapsed.

But Portsmouth Crown Court heard he had failed to notify the authorities when he began earning money again and had received thousands in benefits.

The father of two was elected in 2004 as a member of UKIP which threw him out when they discovered the charges. He then served as an independent MEP.

Mote was found guilty of eight charges of false accounting, eight of obtaining a money transfer by deception, four of evading liability and one of failing to notify a change of circumstances.

Black Wednesday crisis

The MEP for south east England was acquitted of a further four charges in the case brought by the Department of Work and Pensions.

The four-week trial heard Mote ran a successful business which collapsed during the exchange rate mechanism crisis on Black Wednesday in 1992.

He then began to claim income support, housing benefits and council tax benefits but failed to notify the benefits agency when he began earning money through various enterprises including spread betting on currency markets.

Yet between February 1996 and September 2002 he received 73,000 in benefits.

The court heard he used this money to pay off credit card debts which he had run up funding an "extravagant lifestyle" such as restaurant dinners, private health care and holidays to the US, France and the Caribbean.

Responding to the verdict, UKIP leader Nigel Farage said in a statement: "We are pleased that finally justice has been done.

'Defrauded voters'

"Mr Mote lied to UKIP on his application form to be an MEP candidate. "If we had discovered just 48 hours earlier that this case was pending he would never have been elected an MEP.

"Subsequent to our discovering the truth Mr Mote was immediately removed from the party and never took his seat as a UKIP MEP.

"UKIP and the voters of the south east have been defrauded for three years by Mr Mote."

A UKIP spokeswoman said the party would be contacting the European Parliament on Monday to clarify whether Mote now faces an automatic ban as an MEP after being found guilty of a criminal offence.

She said: "We want him disqualified as an MEP."

A date for sentencing is yet to be set.

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