The electoral watchdog has reopened its investigation into Vote Leave’s spending in the EU referendum after new information was uncovered.
The a statement, the Electoral Commission said that since its previous investigation March, “new information has come to light which, when considered alongside the information obtained previously, has given the Commission reasonable grounds to suspect an offence may have been committed”.
The Commission will examine whether the pro-Brexit campaign led by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, which lied about the £350m per week for the NHS figure on their official literature, delivered an incorrect spending return in relation to the £625,000 paid to clear digital marketing agency bills allegedly run up by university student Darren Grimes in the days before the vote.
Investigators will also examine whether the £100,000 Vote Leave paid to Veterans for Britain was incorrectly reported, and if the campaign exceeded its overall spending limit.
Bob Posner, the Electoral Commission’s Director of Political Finance and Regulation and Legal Counsel, said:
“There is significant public interest in being satisfied that the facts are known about Vote Leave’s spending on the campaign, particularly as it was a lead campaigner with a greater spending limit than any other campaigners on the ‘leave’ side. Legitimate questions over the funding provided to campaigners risks causing harm to voters’ confidence in the referendum and it is therefore right that we investigate.”
Vote Leave denies any wrongdoing or any attempt to circumvent campaign spending rules.
The fresh investigation follows a number of reports that Russia interfered with the Brexit vote using a variety of paid operatives and automated bots on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to promote false narratives and foment distrust in Britain’s democratic institutions.