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Last Updated: Monday, 25 September 2006, 17:15 GMT 18:15 UK
Jail sentence for Lib Dem donor
Michael Brown
The businessman was based in Spain. Photo: The Times
A millionaire businessman whose company gave the Lib Dems more than 2m has been jailed for two years after being branded "dishonest" by a judge.

Michael Brown, 40, had admitted committing perjury and making a false declaration to obtain a passport.

The judge at London's Southwark Crown Court said Brown was guilty of "very deliberate and pointed" dishonesty.

Brown, who is based in Spain, became the Lib Dems' biggest donor before the general election.

There is no suggestion the court case has anything to do with the party.

In July, he pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the Passport Office in November 2005 when he claimed he had lost his previous passport in a washing machine.

Also in July, he admitted he had made a false statement in the High Court in 2005.

'Pointed flaunting'

The offence of perjury was prosecuted privately by Mr Brown's former bankers HSBC.

And the CPS matter of passport deception had involved a "very direct and pointed flaunting" of a High Court order, Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC said.

Both were related to HSBC's concerns about the management of accounts opened under the name of his trading company 5th Avenue Partners, he added.

"Investors had apparently provided you with $47.5m (25m) with which to credit these accounts," Mr Rivlin said.

"This aroused the bank's suspicions."

HSBC was then successful in freezing Mr Brown's assets worldwide.

This had resulted in 20m of assets, including a 400,000 yacht and expensive cars, being seized from Mr Brown, Clare Montgomery QC, for the bank, told the court.

Mr Brown was also arrested, bailed and ordered to surrender his passport.

For the perjury offence, Mr Brown had claimed in an affidavit that he was entitled to $10m (5.3m) from the frozen accounts because that money had been made from dealing in bonds.

"You have now admitted this statement was a deliberate lie," the judge said.

In order that he could subsequently flee back to Spain, the judge said, Mr Brown had lied to the authorities, obtaining a new passport by claiming his old one had been destroyed in his washing machine.

Mr Brown, who later went bankrupt, faces further ongoing civil proceedings against the bank.

Election gift

Mr Brown was arrested at his villa in Majorca earlier this year by British and Spanish police as he celebrated his 40th birthday.

Mr Brown, a tax exile, is one of Scotland's wealthiest men, with an estimated fortune of about 10m.

He was the subject of an Electoral Commission investigation last year after it emerged he was not registered to vote in the UK - despite bankrolling the Lib Dems' election campaign to the tune of 2.4m.

But the watchdog later found it was "permissible" for the party to have accepted the cash from his UK-based company 5th Avenue Partners.

Mr Brown later said he gave the money because he believed in then leader Charles Kennedy's ability as a future prime minister "but not the muppets who purport to serve him".

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