A former Ukip MEP from Hampshire who is on trial accused of fraudulently claiming almost £500,000 in false European Parliament expenses says he is being “targeted” for being anti-EU.
Ashley Mote, 79, is accused of committing a string of fraud-related offences and using the gains to fund his courts battles in the UK.
It is alleged that he submitted numerous false claims for Parliamentary Assistance Allowance, for payment for work that organisations had carried out on his behalf.
Jurors have heard that he used cash payments to pay off what he described as “whistleblowers” through third parties.
But Mote refused to give details of those he had paid, saying that he did not want to put them at risk.
The prosecution argue that the large cash withdrawals were used to fund Mote’s own expenses, including his mortgage, rather than to pay off whistleblowers.
Giving evidence at London’s Southwark Crown Court, the pensioner further claimed that he was at a disadvantage because jurors had not been allowed to read his book.
Referring to his payment to whistlebowers, Mote said: “I did not directly pay whistleblowers. They were paid in cash, but as I think I have also said more than once already, I used intermediaries - third parties, if you like. And there were, at times, long gaps in time between my agreeing to expenditure of a particular kind on a particular investigation, and any monies changing hands at all, because of the hectic and dispersed nature of the work I was doing.”
Prosecutor Jonathan Davies asked: “Is there any evidence of these payments to these third parties?”
Mote replied: “Well I hope not, I went out of my way to ensure that there wasn’t.
“I hope not because I gave my word to the many individuals involved - some of them took great risks,” he continued, adding that he was not going to answer questions about the operation.
When it was put to him that the whistleblowing explanation was “untrue”, Mote replied: “Had the jury been allowed to read my book they would know that it is far from untrue.
“It is, if anything, an underestimate of what we did in those five years. I am not going to apologise for a single moment for how I used the money ... I did not use all that was available to me, by a long way.”
He added that there was up to 100,000 euro (£71,000) available to him every year, and that he did not use a “fraction” of it.
“Had I been using it for my own interest, I would now be a very wealthy man,” Mote told jurors.
When it was suggested that he had been using the sums for his “own personal purposes”, he added: “I was targeted for being an anti-EU MEP.”
Mote reasserted his claim that had he wanted to “fiddle the system” he had a far greater sum of money at his disposal than that he used.
Addressing Mr Davies, he continued: “You are doing it because your political bosses want the names of those whistleblowers, and I am not going to give them to you, and I am not going to expose them to risk.”
Mote claimed that he spent years investigating the misuse of public expenses on behalf of the people of south east England.
Mote denies a total of 11 offences alleged to have taken place between November 2004 and July 2010.
The prosecution claims that he dishonestly obtained approximately 355,000 euro (£255,000) and £184,000 of allowances to which he was not entitled.
Between 2004, when he was elected MEP and 2009, Mote claimed a total of £750,000 in Parliamentary Assistance Allowance - taking into account his legitimate claims and any alleged fraudulent activity.
Mote was elected as a Ukip MEP for south east England in 2004, but shortly before he actually took up his seat was thrown out of Nigel Farage’s party because he was being prosecuted by the Department for Work and Pensions for benefit fraud.
However, he sat as an independent MEP until 2009, when he decided not to stand for election.
Mote, from Binsted in Hampshire, denies four counts of obtaining a money transfer by deception, three of false accounting, two of fraud, and one each of acquiring criminal property and concealing criminal property.