British politician in Spanish expat donation row

5th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

5 December 2005, LONDON — Charles Kennedy, leader of the British Liberal Democrat party, faces questions over his party's financial backers after it was claimed that he had accepted a series of large donations from a wealthy tax exile who lives in Spain.

5 December 2005

LONDON — Charles Kennedy, leader of the British Liberal Democrat party, faces questions over his party's financial backers after it was claimed that he had accepted a series of large donations from a wealthy tax exile who lives in Spain.

Kennedy's private office has received money channelled through a UK-based company by Paul Church, who has lived overseas for over 20 years, according to the Sunday Times. Parties are not allowed to accept donations from overseas, the Sunday Times reported.

In his latest entry in the register of MPs' interests, Kennedy lists "Mr Paul Church, Wiltshire" among a number of sources of donations to the Office of the Leader of the Liberal Democrats during 2005. Church's wife, Lynda, is also believed to have made substantial donations to the party.

Between them, the couple have contributed GBP 125,000 to Kennedy's office, more than half its total funding over the past four years.

But the Sunday Times claims Church lives on the Costa del Sol and has never lived in Wiltshire.

Kennedy has already admitted failing to declare more than GBP 30,000 worth of free flights from Michael Brown, another expatriate living in Majorca.

His party is being investigated over a GBP 2.4m donation it accepted through a company owned by Scots-born Brown.

Kennedy's aides last night insisted that the Church donations were "perfectly proper and above board", as they were made through the businessman's company, which is based in Wiltshire and trades in the UK.

But Kennedy's political opponents made it clear that they would demand answers from the Lib Dem leader in the coming weeks.

Chris Grayling, shadow leader of the House of Commons, called for an investigation by the Electoral Commission.

He said: "The Liberal Democrats portray themselves as the whiter-than-white guys of British politics, but it appears they have been taking a series of questionable donations from offshore financial interests."

The commission said it would clarify with Kennedy's office whether "the company was... a permissible donor".

Church lives with his wife in a four-bedroomed villa in El Rosario, east of Marbella. The couple are said to be "family friends" of the Kennedys.

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Subject: Spanish news

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