When people are desperate for some mud to throw at UKIP, they wheel out the tired old accusation that UKIP members are somehow more corrupt than other parties. Even after the shameful episode of the MPs expenses scandal here in Britain, which landed several MPs such as Derek Conway, Eric Illsley and James Devine in gaol, some people still think that they can make self-righteous remarks about fraud or fiddling.
Who are the masters of fraud and fiddling? Certainly not UKIP. Funnily enough when the Conservative MEP Den Dover was convicted by a court of wrongly claiming £345,000 in allowances (ten times as much as Tom Wise) he was not sent to gaol nor was he sacked as an MEP.
An EU court charged him with fiddling £545,000 originally. But everybody knew that there was nothing unusual about that.
When the Libdem cabinet minister David Laws was exposed as cheating on his expenses claims and paying the proceeds to his partner, in 2010, he was not sent to gaol either. Why not? Is there one law for Libdems and another one for UKIP?
In fact, there is a strong likelihood that Mr "Laws(so long as I make them)" will soon be brought back into the Coalition cabinet.
At this very moment, Libdem minister Chris Huhne is facing criminal charges for perverting the course of justice. He could get a stiff gaol sentence. If he does, he would only be following in the footsteps of Jeffrey Archer, who was gaoled for the same reason, and still sits as a Conservative peer in the House of Lords.* Huhne claims to be aged only 57 although he left Westminster School in 1969 (when he would have been fourteen or fifteen according to his own reckoning).
The truth is that there are countless scandals relating to MEPs of all countries and all parties, who are facing corruption charges right, left and centre.
Most of these charges are far more serious than those brought against any UKIP MEP. Bribery, for instance, which is in a different category.
Here are another two cases, this time liberal social democrats from Romania and Slovenia:-
At the same time, in March 2011, an Austrian MEP was forced to resign for taking bribes:-
Why did these cases not get more attention on television here?
One of the guilty three defended his behaviour by saying that there was nothing unusual about it!
He was quoted as saying, "“I didn’t do anything that was, let’s say, illegal or against any normal behaviour that we have here.”
Dear, oh, dear.
Those people who are not suffering from total amnesia may recall that in 2009, three Labour peers, Lords Truscott, Taylor of Blackburn and Snape, were proved to be willing to accept "financial inducements" in return for adjusting a few laws here and there. They didn't sell themselves short either - the fees they demanded were in the region of £120,000. No money changed hands, but the peers in question were found in breach of their parliamentary Code of Conduct. A fourth Labour Peer, Lord Moonie, mixed up in the same business, was heard to say "There's nothing they can do to you if you break the rules." [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldselect/ldprivi/88/88i.pdf]
That was certainly shown to be true in the case of Tory cash-for-questions MP David Tredinnick who was not kicked out as MP for Bosworth despite the revelations about him published in 2009.
Last year, Robert Galvin, an internal parliament auditor, highlighted widespread abuse by MEPs of staff allowances. The report, revealed by The Daily Telegraph, remains under wraps.
And according to the article above, OLAF has 13 more ongoing investigations!
One of the experts on MEP expenses fraud is Dutch MEP Paul van Buitenen, who in March 2008 made public a previously secret internal EU report on the subject:-
EU officials were absolutely furious with Buitenen because they wanted a cover-up. He was intent on exposing the true situation, which is that the cases people make such a fuss about are really small change in relation to the colossal amounts of fraud going on. It's only the MEPs of unpopular parties who get publicly pilloried. The real, big-time crooks are still there, and they're laughing.
Only a few hours after that was written, the news emerged about Coalition ministers David Willets and Danny Alexander signing off a tax-avoidance deal for Ed Lester, an executive of the Student Loans company. It seems that Mr Lester thought it unnecessary to pay tax on his £182,000 per year salary, and the two Libdem ministers quite understood his point of view. I very much doubt if any of these high and mighty personages will end up in prison. After all, they're not UKIP MEPs are they?
*I hear that Chris Huhne has temporarily stepped down while standing trial. Yet he is getting a payout of £17,000 for doing so! I don't suppose even that will stop some people droning on about UKIP being a corrupt party. It's one law for them and another for everybody else.
Lenten Meditations: Saturday 25 March
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