Lib Dem donor Michael Brown to start jail term

City of London Police custody shot of Michael Brown
Image caption Michael Brown was returned to the UK from the Dominican Republic via Spain

A judge has directed convicted fraudster and former Liberal Democrat donor Michael Brown to start serving his seven-year prison sentence.

Brown was extradited to the UK from Spain on Monday after he went on the run to the Dominican Republic in July 2008.

He was convicted in his absence in November 2008 of stealing $8.5m (£5.2m) after posing as a bond dealer.

Brown, 46, donated £2.4m to the Lib Dems before the 2005 general election.

False name

Brown was arrested in the tourist town of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic in January over an unrelated fraud charge.

Local police said he had been living in the Caribbean state under the name of Darren Nally.

Brown went on the run, sparking an international manhunt, after stealing millions from clients including former Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards.

He had posed as a highly successful bond dealer and claimed connections with royalty.

The island does not have an extradition treaty with the UK, but he was deported to Madrid, from where he was brought back to the UK through a European Arrest Warrant secured by the City of London Police.

'Evading justice'

Judge Alistair McCreath made the direction at Southwark Crown Court.

Det Supt Bob Wishart, of City of London Police, said: "We are very pleased that Michael Brown is now where he belongs - preparing to serve a lengthy prison sentence.

"That this convicted fraudster has been brought to justice is something I hope will give comfort to the victims of his crime and bring a degree of closure to what they experienced at his hands."

Andrew Penhale, of the Crown Prosecution Service's central fraud group, said: "After nearly four years of evading justice, Michael Brown has been informed of the seven-year sentence imposed in his absence, after he absconded part way through his trial at Southwark Crown Court in 2008.

"We would like to thank the City of London Police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the Foreign Office for their assistance in bringing Brown back to the UK."

'Rightful sentence'

Brown's donation to the Liberal Democrats' election war chest - its largest ever donation - was funded through the use of investors' money.

The Electoral Commission ruled in 2009 that the party could keep the money.

It found the Lib Dems had accepted the fraudster's donation in good faith and cleared the party of all wrongdoing.

A Lib Dem spokesman said: "The Liberal Democrats fully welcome the news that Michael Brown is finally back in Britain and in custody, serving the sentence he was rightfully given.

"The Electoral Commission inquiry in 2009 found that the party accepted the donation in good faith and were in no way at fault.

"It cleared the party of all wrongdoing and accepted that at the time of the donation, 5th Avenue Partners Ltd was a permissible donor."

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