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Last Updated: Friday, 30 November 2007, 14:20 GMT
Q&A: Donations row legal implications
The Metropolitan Police are expected to begin examining evidence about secret donations made to the Labour Party. Lawyer Neill Blundell, a partner in the business and regulatory investigations department at Russell Jones and Walker, examines the legal implications of the affair.

What laws could have been broken here?

The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, brought in by the Blair government, clearly states that any donations made to a political party must be open and transparent - it must be clear who has given a donation to the party.

How could the laws have been broken?

The act says that anonymous or concealed donations cannot be accepted so, quite clearly, it would be a breach of the act and it would be a criminal offence if, for example, Mr Abrahams had, without reasonable excuse, deliberately concealed his identity.

It would also be a criminal offence for a third party - Janet Kidd, for example - to, without reasonable excuse, provide a donation without providing the party with the name and address of the actual donor.

It could be a criminal offence for any politician or member of their team to knowingly be involved in an arrangement, or to facilitate an arrangement, where those donations would be made in a concealed way.

Would it be reasonable for a donor to say they wanted to make a donation to help the party but did not want the publicity that comes with that?

It's not reasonable - donations have to be open and transparent.

The whole purpose of this legislation is to make it an open process so that anybody can clearly see who is donating money.

Could the police examine whether Prime Minister Gordon Brown or other senior ministers have potentially committed a criminal offence?

Yes, under section 61 of the act, they could be investigated to see whether they had any knowledge that the donations were being received in a concealed way.

The important point here is "knowledge".

Are there any other laws that are relevant here?

There is a possibility that Mr Abrahams or anyone who dealt with him could be investigated under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.

Under this act, an offence would be committed if Mr Abrahams had donated money as an inducement to receive a reward from the party such as an easier route to receiving planning permission for any of his developments.

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