Page last updated at 13:38 GMT, Thursday, 5 November 2009

Ex-MEP admits to expenses racket

Tom Wise
Tom Wise represented East Anglia in the European Parliament

A former British MEP has admitted fiddling £36,000 worth of expenses after switching his plea at his trial.

Tom Wise, 61, from Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, denied charges of false accounting and money laundering during the case at Southwark Crown Court

But the former MEP for the East, who was thrown out of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), has now pleaded guilty.

Wise took the money between 14 December 2004 and 24 December 2005, and spent it on cars and wine, the court heard.

Prosecutors said he had spent a year channelling taxpayers' cash into a bank account he secretly controlled.

Wise, of Ship Road in Leighton Buzzard, pretended the £3,000 "secretarial assistance allowance" he received every month was for his 62-year-old researcher Lindsay Jenkins.

But after paying her just £500 each month he spent the rest "in support of his own interests", the court was told.

Whip withdrawn

Mark Fenhalls, prosecuting, said when the fraud was eventually exposed by a national newspaper four years ago, the MEP promptly "took steps to cancel the claim and repay the money".

"He did so because he had been caught and was trying to minimise the trouble he was in," said counsel.

Had it not been discovered, the scam could have lasted five years and netted £180,000, the jury heard.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said he was relieved that he had "got rid" of MEP Tom Wise

Wise, a former policeman, previously represented UKIP before he had the party whip withdrawn in 2007 over the scandal.

UKIP leader Nigel Farrage had been due to give evidence against Wise on Wednesday, the third day of his three-week trial.

But Wise had talks with his legal team and, after an overnight adjournment, the jury was discharged and the disgraced politician pleaded guilty.

Mrs Jenkins, of Queens Club Gardens, Barons Court, west London, had also been on trial but was cleared after Wise's confession.

She had always denied both the false accounting charge and an allegation of using criminal property.

Wise had given Mrs Jenkins blank documents to sign to pull off the fraud.

Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC ordered her defence costs to be paid out of public funds.

The former MEP has been released on bail until Wednesday when he will be sentenced.

An outstanding money-laundering allegation against Wise was quashed.

Paul Nuttall UKIP party chairman said: "Tom Wise broke faith with the UK Independence Party which is why the whip was withdrawn.

"We believe it is vital as a matter of public confidence that justice is done."

UKIP leader Nigel Farrage said: "He broke the procedures that I laid down for him, he broke the Parliament's rules, he's lied to us consistently about this for years and finally, at last, today he's admitted that he did it.

"I am mightily relieved that has happened, and I feel justified that when I took the whip away from him, when I got rid of him, that I did do the right thing."



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