Not a great day for Nigel Farage, who woke up to the news that Tom Wise has been charged with two counts of financial irregularities.
This saga has been going on for over four years: Wise is alleged to have pretended that his own bank account was actually that of his researcher Lindsay Jenkins against EU rules. From November 2004 until October 2005, he is alleged to have channelled £39,100 into his own account, from which he paid Ms Jenkins £13,555, and spent some of the money on a new (French!) car. When the allegations surfaced in the newspapers, Mr Wise began repaying £25,530.
UKIPwatch has been following the story closely and got a lot of indignant abuse from the likes of UKIP press officer Gawain Towler and Bob Feal Martinez. Towler accused us of writing "unsubstantiated mud" when our posts referred to the allegations against Wise. Perhaps we can expect some apologies now that the Crown Prosecution Service has decided, after a lengthy investigation by Bedfordshire police, to charge Wise and his researcher Lindsay Jenkins with money laundering and false accounting. Wise and Lindsay Jenkins will appear in court next Monday
UKIPs internal handling of this matter has been marked by staggering incompetence. Wise was suspended by UKIP, then exonerated by an internal inquiry led by new South-West MEP Trevor Colman, then had the whip withdrawn in March 2007 following fresh revelations, before being reinstated again, and was finally kicked out in May 2008.
Wise has been a walking embarrassment for UKIP, especially after he was exposed by an undercover reporter for the News of the World, boasting about how little work he did and the ways he ripped off his expenses claims.
This means that two out of the twelve UKIP MEPs will have faced criminal charges for financial irregularities, while it is also alleged that Jeffrey Titford and Derek Clark are also subject to OLAF investigations.
It goes without saying that Wise has not been convicted: he remains innocent until proven guilty. But the criminal charges against him are a hammer blow to UKIPs European election campaign. How can they possibly claim that they are 'sleaze free' and working to under 'EU corruption' when the reality of UKIP representation in Brussels is embodied by Ashley Mote jailed for fraud, and Tom Wise in the dock for money laundering and false accounting?