THE North-East branch of euro-sceptic party UKIP has been investigated by trading standards officials after making a bogus application for cash from an EU quango.
Members of UKIP North- East created the fake Hartlepool and East Durham European Language and Culture Club to apply for a £50 grant towards a fictitious event to celebrate the European Day of Languages.
Once the scam was exposed, trading standards officials in Durham were alerted and looked into the case.
Europe Direct, an arm of the the EU’s European Commission based in Durham, which promotes European culture across the North-East, initially agreed to pay the grant in an email sent to the fictitious club in July.
UKIP claimed they had set up the bogus club to expose Europe Direct for not making the necessary checks before it agreed to hand out EU cash, and said UKIP would never have cashed the cheque had it arrived.
The UKIP sympathiser behind the stunt, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “This all started to wind up the EU – when I created a totally fictitious organisation.
“I was surprised to learn that Europe Direct North-East fell for it and decided to give us a grant.”
Europe Direct approved the grant by email, and even offered free bunting, booklets and prizes – but the ruse was exposed before it sent any money out.
The organisation had agreed to hand out 20 of the £50 grants to schools, colleges, youth and community groups to fund a European Day event next week.
Dave Pascoe, of UKIP North- East, said: “Through this hoax we have gained a modest victory over the EU machine and managed to kick the malevolent EU monster in the ankles.”
However, Dorothy Gibson, manager of Europe Direct North-East, said: “The checking and vetting procedures we have in place raised concerns about this application and guidance was sought from Durham County Council’s trading standards service.
“It is now the intention of the county council to inform the National Anti-Fraud Framework, which alerts all local authorities to incidents of this nature.”
It is understood that Durham County Council’s trading standards officials ruled there was no further action they could take because they would have difficulty proving UKIP intended to defraud Europe Direct – especially as the party claimed it would not have cashed any cheque received.
Ms Gibson said: “From a very early stage we had serious concerns about this application.”
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