Ex-UK minister gets 6 months’ jail for forgery

December 24, 2013 - 8:46:04 am

LONDON: Former Labour MP Denis MacShane was jailed for six months yesterday for false accounting after admitting making bogus parliamentary expenses claims worth nearly £13,000.

MacShane, who served as Europe minister for three years under Tony Blair, submitted 19 fake invoices between 2005 and 2008 while he was the member of parliament for Rotherham in northern England, the Old Bailey heard.

The 65-year-old was the fifth MP to be jailed in relation to the 2009 expenses scandal that angered the public and damaged trust in parliament.

The system was reformed after disclosures that some MPs had claimed expenses for everything from pornographic films and tennis court repairs to moat-cleaning and a bath plug.

Sentencing MacShane, judge Nigel Sweeney said the former MP’s dishonesty amounted to a “flagrant breach of trust” that had undermined public confidence in parliament.

“You deliberately created misleading and deceptive invoices and then used them in order to procure payments of public money,” Sweeney told the court. “The deception used was calculated and designed to avoid suspicion falling on your claims.”

The court heard how MacShane claimed bogus expenses to pay for research and translation work supposedly done by an organisation called the European Policy Institute (EPI), a research body he had set up in 1992. 

In fact, the EPI had not done any work and the money went straight to MacShane.

However, the court heard that MacShane had paid other third parties to do some work to help in his role as an MP, but that he had not kept the receipts.

Instead, MacShane tried to estimate the cost of the genuine work and then reclaimed the expenses through the EPI.

Prosecutors said they accepted MacShane’s argument that he had submitted false invoices to recoup expenses he genuinely incurred as an MP. They also accepted that he had not intended to profit personally and said his “chaotic” record-keeping had contributed to the confusion. The money was paid back.

The judge said MacShane’s case was different from those of the other four MPs jailed for false expenses claims.

“Each of the others was sentenced upon the basis that his claims were wholly false, whereas you must be sentenced upon the basis that there were other genuine expenses that you had incurred and paid in broadly the same sums and which you could have reclaimed legitimately,” Sweeney said.

“However ... the dishonesty involved was considerable and was repeated many times over a long period.”

MacShane, an Oxford-educated former BBC journalist, resigned as an MP in November 2012 after a parliamentary investigation into his expenses. 

He had served as MP for Rotherham for 18 years.

REUTERS

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