Britain's anti-EU leader denies expenses allegations

15th April 2014, Comments 0 comments

Eurosceptic UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said Tuesday he was considering legal action after a British newspaper reported that he faces an investigation over his EU expenses.

Farage told the BBC that the "outrageous" allegations published by Rupert Murdoch's The Times were politically motivated, ahead of European Parliament elections on May 22.

The Times reported that a former UKIP official had made a complaint to the European Union's anti-fraud office OLAF over allowances that Farage receives for his constituency office in Britain.

The newspaper said Farage gets £15,500 ($25,900, 18,700 euros) a year to run the office in a converted grain store, citing transparency reports on the party's website, but reported that it is provided rent-free by local supporters, while a former office manager said the premises only cost £3,000 a year to run.

Farage said the story was "simply wrong."

"I have been accused on the front page of The Times of siphoning off EU money into the Cayman Islands -- I am taking legal advice, I think this is completely and utterly outrageous," Farage told BBC radio.

The UKIP leader -- who has built his beer-and-cigarettes image on being a man of the people and not part of the elite in London and Brussels -- added that it was "yet another politically motivated attack from what is the establishment newspaper".

"We do not claim expenses for running offices or any other activity that takes place within our member state the United Kingdom. We get an allowance, a fixed rate allowance, and we can spend it how we see fit," he said.

Farage said the allowance was actually £3,580 a month "and that is given to every MEP (member of the European Parliament) and we can spend it how we want to. We don't have to provide receipts for it or anything like that."

The EU gave recommendations for what the money could be spent on, ranging from office expenses, phone bills and hotels and restaurants, he added.

OLAF said it was aware of the press reports about Farage. A spokesman refused to comment on the reports, but said its general practice was to assess any complaint to see if there was sufficient evidence to launch an investigation.

Opinion polls have shown growing support for UKIP, with one survey published at the weekend putting the party on 20 percent while Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives hit 29 percent, their lowest this year.

Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU and then hold an in-out referendum in 2017, provided that he is returned to office in Britain's next general election in May 2015.

© 2014 AFP

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