Former MEP Ashley Mote jailed over expenses fraud
A former MEP who fraudulently claimed almost £500,000 in European Parliament expenses has been jailed.
Ashley Mote, 79, was convicted of 12 charges relating to claims for payments to people he said were whistleblowers.
The offences included fraud, acquiring criminal property and false accounting.
Mote, who was elected on a UKIP ticket but sat as an independent MEP for South East England, was sentenced to five years at London's Southwark Crown Court.
'Greed and dishonesty'
In May, he was convicted of four counts of obtaining a money transfer by deception, three of false accounting, two of fraud, and one each of acquiring criminal property, concealing criminal property and theft.
The offences took place between November 2004 and July 2010.
On sentencing, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith told Mote: "[The jury] listened to you closely for days as you lied, protested, lied and lied again about the monies you had fraudulently claimed as expenses while serving your constituents and your country as an MEP.
"During the period from 2004 to 2009 you corruptly fiddled over £400,000 in expenses.
"Your greed and dishonesty were matched only by your hypocrisy, because while this was going on you carried out a high-profile campaign condemning corruption and the improper use of public money in the very institution from which you were leeching it."
During the trial, the jury heard how Mote, of Binsted, Hampshire, submitted numerous false expenses claims for payment for work that organisations had allegedly carried out on his behalf.
Mote claimed the money was to pay whistleblowers in cash through third parties. He also said he had been "targeted for being an anti-EU MEP".
Mr Justice Smith said: "You knew perfectly well what the rules were for the claiming of expenses and you also knew perfectly well that what you were doing had nothing to do with funding whistleblowers and everything to do with funding your bridging loan, your mortgage, your legal expenses that were unrelated to your role as an MEP."
He told Mote he had deceived people who had considered him to be "something of a political hero" and described his dishonesty as "breathtaking".
"As you came to towards the end of your time as an MEP you decided to milk what you saw as your cash cow to the limit," he added.
He told Mote that the sentence was reduced to five years because of his age.
"If you were a young man, I would make a modest reduction to six years eight months on the grounds of totality," he said.
"But you are not a young man, and I consider that such a sentence would be a crushing blow which, even if justifiable, should be avoided if possible."
In response to mitigation from Tim Moloney QC that Mote had done valuable work as a politician, Mr Justice Smith said: "It's a bit double-edged for a person who goes trumpeting loud that he's going to clear up corruption in the European Parliament while fleecing it as hard as he could."
Mote sat as an independent from 2004-2009 after being expelled from UKIP for benefit fraud.
He was jailed for nine months but was able to keep his seat because his sentence was under a year in length.
About £100,000 of the bogus expenses Mote claimed were used to fund his legal fees when he was prosecuted for benefits fraud.
UKIP party leader Nigel Farage said: "He was never a UKIP MEP I'm pleased to say. He was elected on a UKIP list.
"I found out very quickly and thought he was a wrong 'un so I kicked him out of the party, and this will be his second prison sentence so there you are.
"He never took his seat as a UKIP MEP. He was a member of UKIP, who was elected and I kicked him out even before he took his seat."