The man who is the Liberal Democrat’s biggest ever donor is reported to have been arrested in the Dominican Republic after being on the run for three years.
According to Interpol, Michael Brown, who gave Nick Clegg’s party £2.4 million of stolen cash was located near the resort of Punta Cana this week.
Brown, described as one of Britain’s most wanted fraudsters, absconded three years ago while on bail for a £40m fraud.
In September 2011, it was reported by the Guardian newspaper that he was living in the Dominican Republic under a false identity.
If Brown is extradited back to the UK the Lib Dems face the prospect of having to return the £2.4 million donation to Brown’s victims.
The capture of the Lib Dem donor will be embarrassing for party leader Nick Clegg whose party refused to hand back the stolen cash. The money helped finance the Lib Dem’s 2005 election campaign.
Glasgow born Brown, who at the time of the donation was already wanted in the US for cheque fraud, offered the Lib Dem party the cash in 2004. Despite not living in the UK at the time, not being a Lib Dem party member and not being registered to vote in the UK the flamboyant Brown was warmly welcomed and rubbed shoulders with party grandees at Mayfair dinner parties.
Brown was arrested in 2005 after victims claimed he had defrauded them out of £40 million, he fled in 2008 whilst on bail awaiting trial.
In November 2008, after a trial in his absence, he was convicted on four counts – two thefts, one of furnishing false information and one of perverting the course of justice and sentenced to seven years.
Donations to political parties are impermissible under Section 58 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 if the company in whose name the donation is made does not trade in the UK. The Electoral Commission can force a party to forfeit any such funds if the donation is found to be in breach of this law.
In 2008 the Electoral Commission decided that it had been “reasonable” for the Lib Dems to accept the £2.4 million made in the name of Brown’s 5th Avenue firm and that the party had acted in “good faith” despite a ruling by the High Court in London stating the company had never in fact traded bonds in the UK, as previously claimed.