Ex-MEP Den Dover ordered to pay back £345,000

Den Dover Mr Dover represented the North West of England

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A former Conservative MEP expelled by the party over expenses allegations has been ordered to repay £345,289 in "unjustified" claims.

Den Dover, 72, originally faced a demand for £538,000 the European Parliament said should not have been paid to him.

But the European Court of Justice has reduced that amount after an appeal.

Mr Dover stood down as an MEP in 2009 after being expelled by the Tory Party for "gross misconduct".

The European Parliament launched a probe in 2008 after it emerged Mr Dover had paid nearly £1m to a company, MP Holdings, which included his wife and daughters among its directors.

Lib Dem MEP for North West of England, Chris Davies, said Mr Dover treated Brussels like a 'piggy bank'

The money came from allowances MEPs receive to pay staff salaries and costs.

The parliament ruled that only £421,156 could be justified in salaries, National Insurance and legitimate staff travel expenses - and the remainder was "without justification".

It demanded £538,290 back but Mr Dover, who represented the North West of England in Brussels and is a former MP for Chorley in Lancashire, appealed to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

He told the court it was up to the parliament to prove the payments were unjustified, pointing out in court submissions that "the requirement to provide documentation justifying each item of expenditure since 1999 did not exist when the relevant expenses were incurred".

He said the European Parliament was aware that his wife and daughter held managerial positions in MP Holdings, and claimed that it has never "implemented a transparent system setting out clear preconditions for reimbursement of parliamentary assistance expenditure or required members to produce documentary evidence of their parliamentary assistance expenditure".

The Luxembourg judges found that he should pay back part of the amount - but said the European Parliament had not sufficiently demonstrated that the rest was unjustified.

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