Nikki Sinclaire cleared: Expenses probe was 'vanity' case

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Image caption,
Nikki Sinclaire represented the West Midlands as an MEP until 2014

A former UKIP MEP cleared of expenses fraud has criticised police for leading a "vanity case" against her.

Nikki Sinclaire, who represented the West Midlands until 2014, had denied deliberately submitting 10 dishonest claims for road travel she never made.

She said her expenses were "deliberately corrupted" by ex-office aide John Ison. The court heard he gave details to UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

West Midlands Police said it had acted in a "diligent and professional" way.

Ms Sinclaire, of Shirley, Solihull, West Midlands, had been accused of fiddling £3,250 in European parliamentary expenses claims and laundering the cash.

Mr Ison had admitted in court sending a message to another party about Ms Sinclaire, which read: "Ok, Plan B - fraud."

The jury at Birmingham Crown Court also heard there had been at atmosphere of "hostility" between Ms Sinclaire and Mr Farage.

'Unnecessary' case

Speaking outside court, Ms Sinclaire, 47, said: "In times of police cutbacks I find it incredible that on the say-so of one embittered man, West Midlands (Police) spent, I believe, in the region of £1.5 million chasing a vanity case of £3,200."

She had said the expenses were either mistakes by staff, or in at least one case were "deliberately corrupted" by her former aide.

She admitted being negligent and said she was "embarrassed" by her errors, but denied any deliberate wrong-doing, saying she "paid no attention" to travel expenses as it was her office staff's job.

Following the verdict, Ms Sinclaire - the first ever openly transsexual parliamentarian in the UK - spoke of her relief, saying her acquittal was "the only just verdict".

"I was arrested more than four years ago, and that unnecessary event had blighted my political career and, more importantly, my life," she said.

"I now welcome the opportunity to move forward."

'Illicit transactions'

A spokesman for West Midlands Police said the force "acknowledged" the verdict, but defended the investigation.

"Our criminal justice system quite rightly demands a very high standard of proof," he said.

In a statement Mr Ison said he "played a very small part" in the investigation, adding he respected the jury's decision.

"I became aware of what appeared to me were illicit financial transactions involving her when I worked in her Birmingham office," he said.

"I then reported my concerns to the police. I can understand that this must seem to her like betrayal, and why she subsequently feels badly towards me.

"However, I did what any responsible person in the same position would, and should, have done."

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