PSNI to probe allegations of fraud at devolved parliament over politicians’ expenses after claims made in BBC documentaries
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
26 November 2014The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has confirmed it is examining politicians’ expenses at the Stormont assembly following allegations of major fraud at the devolved parliament.
A PSNI spokesman said on Wednesday that officers from its serious crime branch were assessing the claims of “potential criminality” at the Northern Ireland assembly.
The PSNI acted after two BBC documentaries in the region that exposed claims of major expenses fraud.
In the second of the programmes aired on Tuesday night the BBC Spotlight investigations team revealed that Sinn Féin assembly members claimed £700,000 in expenses for using Research Services Ireland over the last decade - a company linked to the party. RIS is run by Sinn Féin’s finance managers.
Another ex Sinn Féin assembly member told the programme the party had claimed for his driving expenses even though he cannot drive.
Meanwhile the former speaker of the regional parliament, the Democratic Unionist Willie Hay, said he has suspended his brother-in-law as his office manager after the programme revealed it had claimed thousands of pounds in expenses for home heating oil. Hay refused to comment on the revelation explaining that it was now a police matter.
The former chairman of a Westminster standards watchdog, Sir Alistair Graham, criticised the use of taxpayer’s money channelled to cultural societies that were linked to Sinn Féin. He told the previous Spotlight programme that there was a “real danger that these so-called cultural bodies are rather bogus organisations which is a way of channelling public money to political parties”.
Graham said these allegations of criminality had to be investigated by the PSNI.
Northern Ireland’s justice minister, David Ford, said that the controversy underlined the need for an external, independent public audit of parliamentarians’ expenses at Stormont.