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BNP's Euro-funds closely scrutinised

    Concern has been expressed that the BNP could syphon off thousands of pounds of European Union money to pay off its reported mounting debts.

    Party leader Nick Griffin and his colleague Andrew Brons are entitled to a combined financial package worth around £600,000 a year because they are MEPs. It includes their annual MEP salaries and a general expenditure allowance to cover office costs, worth £86,000 for both MEPs.

    But concern has been raised over the use of an allowance for an MEP's support staff being used to pay for BNP activities in the UK.

    Nick Griffin reluctantly revealed his European spending this year after other MEPs voluntarily disclosed their financial costs. He uses up to £145,000 of his annual staff allowance on eight personnel, who officially are only allowed to carry out duties concerned with his European parliamentary activities.

    Only six are named and four also work for the BNP in the UK. They include party chairman Simon Darby, UK staff manager Adam Walker, and party spokesman John Walker. The website still lists ex-campaigns director Eddy Butler, expelled from the party three weeks ago. Four other staff are also employed twice by both MEPs.

    Details of the BNP's financial crisis have been emerging following last week's letter from the party's ex-chief fundraiser James Dowson describing a "very grave" situation in which the party could only pay a fraction of its debts, estimated at over £500,000.

    They include thousands owed to printing firms for election material, an out-of-court settlement over copyright infringement to Marmite, thought to be £170,000, and the cost of fighting this week's court battle with the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

    Conservative North West MEP Sajjad Karim said he and other MEPs were closely watching the BNP's finances to ensure that European funds could not be used for any purposes other than their parliamentary activities.

    However, he admitted: "Someone could actually quite easily use fair amounts of those funds for party purposes without anybody finding out, unless a thorough investigation were to be carried out."

    The BNP did not respond to questions on the issue.

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