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Sat 17 August 2019
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Criminal investigations into the Referendum Leave campaigns are still stalled amid allegations of up to a dozen MPs in the frame.

The Met Police is facing accusations of a “cover-up” over its failure to decide whether leading Brexiteers should be subject to a criminal investigation amid allegations of illegality in the EU Referendum campaign.

MP David Lammy, a leading Labour Remain campaigner, told the Byline Times that the Met’s delay “smells more and more like it could be a cover-up from the very top”.

The Tottenham MP was joined by Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson who agreed that “this seems an unacceptable delay on a subject of national interest and importance”.

This smells more and more like it could be a cover-up from the very top.

David Lammy MP

Their comments followed investigations by the Byline Times which revealed that Scotland Yard has still not decided whether to launch a full investigation into wrongdoing during the EU referendum which was first revealed two years ago. It also refused to confirm or deny that up to 14 senior political figures could become ‘persons of interest’ in any criminal inquiry.


A Litany of Stonewalling

Nine months ago, Leave.EU the unofficial leave campaign during the EU Referendum was fined £70,000 and its chief executive Liz Bilney referred to the Met Police by the Electoral Commission for over-spending.

Seven months ago, David Halsall, of the official leave campaign Vote Leave, and, Darren Grimes, founder of its youth off-shoot BeLeave, were also referred to the Met for false declarations of campaign spending.

Back in November, a Scotland Yard spokesman admitted to Open Democracy that “political sensitivities” had stalled a formal investigation being launched into the EU Referendum campaigns.    

The wrongdoing alleged here is too serious to be swept under the carpet.

Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson MP

This week, after nearly two weeks of repeated calls and emails by the Byline Times to the Met Police press office, a spokeswoman revealed that it has still not decided whether to launch a formal criminal investigation into the Electoral Commission’s referrals. Scotland Yard also refused to confirm or deny that up to 14 senior political figures could be under investigation.

Both Lammy and Watson’s comments echo increasing concerns that Scotland Yard is attempting to delay any investigation until after Britain exits the EU on March 29 – for the sake of political expediency.


“Police must deal decisively with political corruption”

The Met’s foot-dragging has echoes of the phone hacking scandal, when it took Scotland Yard five years to properly investigate the evidence they possessed of systematic surveillance at the News of the World.

“In relation to both referrals, subsequently on 7 September 2018, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) received over 2,400 documents from the Electoral Commission, which are being assessed by the MPS in order to make an informed decision as to whether a criminal investigation is required,” a Scotland Yard spokeswoman said.


Tom Watson MP called for a public inquiry into Russian interference in the EU referendum at the Byline Festival in August 2018

Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson told Byline Times: “I’m sure the Metropolitan Police will want to explain why there is a delay and reassure us that they are not avoiding investigating because of political sensitivities.

“The wrongdoing alleged here is too serious to be swept under the carpet.”

Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, agreed. He told the Byline Times that he expected the police “to move quickly against the ‘people of interest’ and deal decisively with political corruption”.

Lammy added: “It is extraordinary that the police continue to delay starting a criminal investigation into what the Electoral Commission deemed ‘clear and substantial’ evidence of illegal activity by Vote Leave many months ago.

“Postponing this investigation until after Britain has left the EU may be politically expedient for the Government, but it is clearly against the national interest.

“The independence of law enforcement is vital to uphold the rule of law in our democracy. Unfortunately, it is now being questioned.”

The MP repeated his belief that the 2016 Referendum result should be considered “invalid” if leading Brexiteers are convicted of illegal activity.


Files “immediately referred” to the Met

Scotland Yard also dodged the question of whether three separate investigations – into the Vote Leave, Leave.EU and BeLeave campaigns – had been merged into a single probe.

BeLeave and Cambridge Analytica whistle-blowers Shahmir Sanni and Chris Wylie at a Byline Festival/Frontline Club press conference in March last year

The Electoral Commission has said it concluded its two investigations last May and July and that it “immediately referred” the “responsible person for each organisation” to the Met.

“At the same time, we informed the police of the referrals and explained that the evidence was ready to pass to them,” a Commission spokesman said. “The police asked for our files in late August and collected them within three weeks.”

The Commission said it is “entirely a matter for the police to determine what they do with the documents that we have provided”.

The Met Police has been contacted for further comment.

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