Published: 12:24, 29 April 2016
A former Labour Member of the European Parliament has been jailed for expenses fraud after wrongfully claiming thousands of pounds.
Peter Skinner, 56, of Recreation Avenue, Snodland, will spend four years behind bars after spending the money, which should have been used to cover staff costs, on himself.
He splashed the cash on a Land Rover Discovery for his ex-wife and a honeymoon to the United States and Hawaii following his second marriage, among other luxuries.
He also used the money to pay monthly maintenance payments as part of his divorce settlement.
He was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court today having previously been found guilty of one count of fraud, one count of false accounting and one count of making a false instrument.
The court heard how officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate launched an investigation into Skinner’s activities in December 2010when they became aware of a potentially fraudulent document relating to consultancy work Skinner claimed had been provided by his father.
It was later established that the document, which authorised payments of £5,000 to his father’s business every three months, contained false signatures.
Through further audits of Skinner’s personal and office accounts, the investigators also found numerous examples of Skinner spending money, intended for staff, on himself and others.
Investigating officer Detective Sergeant Adrian Brown said: "Peter Skinner served as an MEP for 20 years and has badly let down those who supported and trusted him throughout his time in office.
"He abused his position, diverting significant sums of public money from legitimate parliamentary use to enhance his own lifestyle."
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:"Taxpayers will be pleased to see justice done as someone who stole vast amounts of their money is sent to jail.
"Skinner’s case highlights the shameful lack of accountability and transparency in the European Parliament’s expenses system, which is clearly open to abuse: the fact that he was able to defraud the system over a period of years shows the inadequacy of current safeguards to protect taxpayers' money from corrupt individuals.
"In the same way that the 2009 MPs’ expenses scandal prompted change at Westminster, this case ought to be a wake-up call for the authorities in Brussels to make their expenses system more open and accountable to those of us footing the bills.
"Taxpayers will also want to know how much of their money they are going to recover from this disgraced former MEP."