Michael Brown arrested in Dominican Republic

The Guardian reports:

The Liberal Democrats’ biggest donor, who has been on the run for three years after being convicted of a multimillion pound theft, has been arrested by police in the Dominican Republic, the Guardian can disclose…

A City of London police spokesman confirmed Brown’s arrest. “We are pleased to hear that Michael Brown has been detained by authorities in the Dominican Republic, and are currently establishing contact with them to find out further details about his arrest.

“Clearly, at some stage we will look for his return to the UK, so he can serve the sentence for the fraud offences for which he has been convicted in this country,” he said.

As Stephen Tall has previously written:

There have been two investigations by the Electoral Commission into the party’s decision to accept Michael Brown’s donation, in 2006 and again in 2009.

On each occasion, the Commission cleared the party of wrong-doing, ruling that ‘it remains the Commission’s view that the Liberal Democrats acted in good faith,’ and that sufficient checks were carried out by the party and its officers. Let’s remember, it took a lengthy investigation by the Serious Fraud Office to find evidence to convict Mr Brown. Let’s also remember that there were plenty of wealthy businesspeople happy to hand over their cash to Mr Brown in the hope of turning a profit; presumably they too trusted him.

* Mark Pack is a member of the Federal Board and editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire. He is a candidate for Party President.

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23 Comments

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 7th Jan '12 - 6:25pm

    This one will drag on for years and every time it comes up the party gets more negative publicity. It’s going to cost us £2.4million in negative publicity in the end, if it hasn’t already done.

    Paddy Ashdown turned down £1 million donation to the party from Mohamed Al Fayed.

    Charles Kennedy accepted a £2.4million donation to the party from this character.

    Go figure.

  • @Paul Walter. Don’t you bother to read the articles before you comment?

    “On each occasion, the Commission cleared the party of wrong-doing, ruling that ‘it remains the Commission’s view that the Liberal Democrats acted in good faith,’ and that sufficient checks were carried out by the party and its officers. Let’s remember, it took a lengthy investigation by the Serious Fraud Office to find evidence to convict Mr Brown. Let’s also remember that there were plenty of wealthy businesspeople happy to hand over their cash to Mr Brown in the hope of turning a profit; presumably they too trusted him”

  • Not sure why Paul is seemingly trying to hint at a slander against Kennedy’s character.

    Can’t really see how it has cost the party £2.4million in negative publicity either. It’s bad publicity, but it’s hardly bad publicity that the average joe in the street has heard about. Hopefully the guy will go to prison then we don’t hear anymore about it (hopefully!).

  • I think it probably has cost us a lot in negative publicity actually. I know the Electoral Commission has cleared us of wrongdoing, but on moral grounds I have always argued on LibDem Voice that we should make it clear that we are prepared to pay the money back: it could go into an escrow account for the time being given that who should be compensated and how are unclear. I know we haven’t got the money but we would just have to do our best to raise it. The Guardian uses the story to get some nasty digs at us: “The Lib Dems have refused to compensate Brown’s victims, whose money went into the party’s coffers to finance the 2005 general election campaign”. And: “In the election the party increased its share of the vote by nearly 4% after his cash was spent on posters and advertising”. And: “….Brown had given money to the Lib Dems to give himself an air of respectability whilst duping his victims”.

  • So we haven’t got the money, but you think we should still try and raise it? Are you taking the piss? We’ve got local elections in a couple of months, not sure my local party are going to be working at any fundraisers to help pay it back to help our consciences!

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 7th Jan '12 - 7:32pm

    Come off it. I have read that stuff about “in good faith” many times. I have repeated it myself and I totally believe it. I have great respect for Charles Kennedy. I resent the implication stated above. I wrote what I wrote. It wasn’t even approaching libel (slander is spoken and libel is written – which is a good start when you are throwing accusations about).

    But at the end of the day, whether it was a wise decision or not, this has turned out to be one of most unsavoury debacles in the history of the party. We could have done without that £2.4 million. It is a dog turd which will take a long time to remove from our shoes.

    I’ll quite happily give a sizeable amount of money into an escrow account (as suggested above by @tonyhill) to, in some way, expunge this.

  • “Paddy Ashdown turned down £1 million donation to the party from Mohamed Al Fayed.

    Charles Kennedy accepted a £2.4million donation to the party from this character.

    Go figure.”

  • Oophs, tried to quote and it went wrong.

    I thought the way you wrote it seemed to be implying something regarding the character of Ashdown and then something regarding the character of Kennedy. Obviously not.

  • Also, I didn’t know Mohamed Al Fayed tried to give us money. Why have these mega rich people tried to give us money in the past? It’s not like we were ever looking likely to be in power…. Am I being cynical presuming Mohamed Al Fayed isn’t actually a strong LibDem at heart?

  • Rijjy,

    Because the nemo dat rule doesn’t apply to money.

    Neither Charles Kennedy nor the Treasurer at the time knew or had reason to know that the money was a proceed of crime, so there is no question whatsoever of bad conscience here. The party changed its position on the faith of Brown’s assurance that the money had been acquired honestly, so it would be just as monstrous to expect the party to compensate Brown’s victims as it would Brown’s newsagent, grocer, tailor, hairdresser, etc.

    Paul, there is such a thing in the English law of defamation as the doctrine of false innuendo.

    “But at the end of the day, whether it was a wise decision or not, this has turned out to be one of most unsavoury debacles in the history of the party.”

    What! More unsavoury than propping up a Tory government? (Something CK has never done, btw.)

    Having been flippant, I will restate what I have stated before. It is better for the party to accept lots of small donations from members and supporters than a few big donations from businessmen we know nothing about. But who is going to donate money to a party that is propping up a Tory government? You might as well send the cheque straight to Conservative Central Office.

  • Who would the Lib Dems give the money back to exactly? Legally, a returned donation would have to go to the individual, or company, who donated it – it would be as illegal for the the Lib Dems to “look through” the donor to where the money may have come from as it would be for someone to use a front person to make a political donation. The donation was legal; there can be no looking through and attempting to identify or guess which pound came from which souce (money is fungible after all). It would look and be bizarre for a political party to give money to a criminal.

    The party should show some balls and instead of saying “the electoral commission found no fault, and look – what about the other parties, blah blah”, it should say “Yes, we had a nice large legal donation, thank you very much, which we spent on campaigning – didn’t we have a good result in 2005! If the person controlling the donor company is found subsequently to be a criminal, then we are sympathetic to his victims. They should get justice; he should get the appropriate punishment. We have had, and can have, no other involvement in this matter.” End of story.

    As it happens, Mr Brown has been convicted, in absentia; his victims have justice. They won’t be getting their money back as he none, unless he has come by some more since ‘being abroad’.

    The Guardian will continue to bring this up and use mendacious phrases like “the Lib Dems could be sued” because it suits their political agenda and is borne out of frustration fueled by their current political impotence. They could be exposed for their own double standards, or better, just ignored.

    To the rest of the world: it was a legal political donation. Get over it.

  • @rjjjyIf I bought a car and regardless of how many checks I had done or how much good faith I had shown if it was previously stolen…

    He didn’t give us a car though did he? The Lib Dems have been trying to bring in new rules for party donations for as long as I can remember, if this particular donation upsets you why don’t you have your party whichever that is get their act together?
    Were donations made by the likes of Asil Nadir and Robert Maxwell paid to the victims of their frauds?

  • Andrew Suffield 7th Jan '12 - 8:40pm

    I have always argued on LibDem Voice that we should make it clear that we are prepared to pay the money back

    Prepared in the sense of being willing to do so, perhaps. But the simple fact is that the party does not have, and can not obtain, £2.4m. Paying the money back is impossible.

  • Simon McGrath 7th Jan '12 - 8:48pm

    ““Paddy Ashdown turned down £1 million donation to the party from Mohamed Al Fayed.

    Charles Kennedy accepted a £2.4million donation to the party from this character.

    Go figure.”
    Al fayed had been criticised in a DTI report and had admitted bribing MPs. So Paddy was quite right to turn him down. Brown (when he made the donation) was a businessman of good standing who there was nothing against to indicate his money was not his own.

  • “It wasn’t even approaching libel (slander is spoken and libel is written – which is a good start when you are throwing accusations about).”

    There is a long-ish discussion about this in the members only bit. It isn’t quite as straightforward as that

    “If I bought a car and regardless of how many checks I had done or how much good faith I had shown if it was previously stolen I would not be afforded the luxury of keeping the vehicle It would be returned to its owner be that the person it had been stolen from or the insurance company who had paid out on the theft What makes you think your party should be treated any differently?”

    Because you’d still have the car. If you sold the car and spent the money on a holiday (in good faith) recovery would be much less likely. There was a long (though amicable and well sourced) discussion on this the last time it came up.

  • Paul Griffiths 7th Jan '12 - 9:39pm

    On moral grounds I have always argued on LibDem Voice that it is Michael Brown’s responsibility to compensate his victims and that he cannot somehow absolve himself of that responsibility by making a donation to a political party.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 7th Jan '12 - 10:08pm

    @tom to be clear I was simply juxtaposing two judgment calls. I accept the points made by Simon McGrath above. But my point was about judgment, not character. Even from the most meticulously clean business person in the known universe, an offer of £2.4million from someone who has no history of political involvement, is not right. But then I have the benefit of hindsight, of course.

  • Ruth Bright 8th Jan '12 - 6:53pm

    What gets me is that the party was chucking Brown’s money around like confetti in the 2005 campaign in a desperate attempt to spend it. When I was a parliamentary candidate in 2005 I was bewildered to find out that a generic Lib Dem paper was being posted out in parts of “my” constituency without any co-ordination with me or my team. I found out about it from voters.

    How many members have we got left these days? A membership “Michael Brown” poll tax of £60 each and we could pay it back.

  • “How many members have we got left these days? A membership “Michael Brown” poll tax of £60 each and we could pay it back.

    Being an unincorporated association isn’t that what it could come to 🙂

  • Ruth Bright 9th Jan '12 - 4:18pm

    Simon – perhaps it will come to that! PPCs are used to it anyway. There can’t be many who haven’t donated that kind of money to a General Election campaign in kind or lost earnings.

    What I meant of course was that the money was spent desperately, indiscriminately and at the last minute in areas we were not even targeting.

    To receive what appears to be dodgy dosh is unfortunate; to spend such dosh badly looks like carelessness.

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