4 UK lawmakers could face charges over expenses

AP News
Posted: Nov 23, 2009 12:51 PM

Four British lawmakers could face criminal charges over the expenses they claimed from taxpayers, prosecutors said Monday, marking the latest twist in a scandal over lavish spending by elected officials.

Prosecutors said they had only just begun to examine the evidence against the unidentified lawmakers and would be making a decision whether to file charges at some later point.

"We've just received the files," a Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said, adding that prosecutors "don't have a timetable at the minute." He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with official policy.

Revelations that lawmakers manipulated expense rules to spend tens of thousands of pounds on home improvements and other perks outraged voters struggling through Britain's worse recession since World War II.

Leaked documents showed how lawmakers attempted to bill the public for items including porn movies, horse manure and an ornamental duck house. In one notorious case, a lawmaker demanded reimbursement for the cost of cleaning the moat surrounding his country mansion.

Many lawmakers argued that their purchases had been within the rules _ but police began investigating the claims made by several politicians in June. The Press Association news agency said some could face charges of fraud or false accounting.

Few in British politics have escaped the scandal's reach.

Nine ministers in Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government quit and his Labour Party experienced losses in local and European elections as voters deserted mainstream parties. Brown faced further humiliation after an independent auditor ordered him to repay 12,000 pounds ($20,000).

Of the 646 House of Commons lawmakers, about 175 have so far repaid claims totaling about 300,000 pounds ($475,000). Two legislators have been ousted, and about 100 have confirmed they won't contest the next national election _ which must be held by June _ as a result of the furor.