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The UK Independence Party has suspended one of its MEPs amid allegations of financial sleaze.

East of England MEP Tom Wise was excluded from the party's group in the European Parliament on 28 February after being accused of paying himself out of public funds.

The UKIP leadership said Wise had failed to disclose information relating to the claims, for which he is now being investigated by the European anti-fraud watchdog Olaf.

Party chairman John Whittaker said: "This decision should in no way be interpreted as prejudicial to the outcome of that inquiry.

"The decision was taken at a meeting of the MEPs in Brussels, which was the first opportunity we have had to discuss this matter."

At the weekend the Sunday Times reported that Wise was being investigated by Olaf for allegedly channelling 39,100 of public funds into his personal account.

The paper said he pretended that his own bank account was that of his researcher Lindsay Jenkins.

From November 2004 to October 2005 he is alleged to have claimed 39,100 from the fund set aside for MEPs' assistants, and paid Jenkins just 13,555.

It also reports some of the 13,555 paid to Jenkins was for work done on behalf of other party members, including UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

And it said the party was flouting the spirit of EU rules banning party workers being paid with public funds.

1 March 2007

 Last updated: 01/03/2007 10:07:00

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