A UK Independence Party MEP has repaid £31,000 to the European Parliament after a "misunderstanding" over expenses rules, Ukip announced today.
The refund by East Midlands member Derek Clark was recommended by the EU's anti-fraud office (OLAF) after an inquiry into his use of European Parliament money to pay party staff.
A Ukip statement said: "Following a recommendation by OLAF, Derek Clark MEP has paid £31,000 out of his own pocket back to the European Parliament. This was due to a misunderstanding over the rules in 2004-5.
"As has been made clear by both OLAF and the (European) Parliament Services, the MEP had not sought any personal financial enrichment at any point. but they required that the sum quoted be repaid."
The statement said Clark employed two people during 2004-5, using his parliamentary allowances:
"At the time they worked for Ukip, not for Mr Clark in his role as an MEP, and it was believed that the work they were asked to do was within EU guidelines and that the expenditure was therefore legitimate." the statement continued.
"We now know that this was not the case and that their duties did not conform to the rules.
"As a result OLAF were informed and interviewed Mr Clark in August 2009. The case was declared 'closed', but the papers were passed to Parliament Services with a recommendation that Mr Clark be required to refund the £31,000.
"Derek Clark paid this money immediately but further wishes to emphasise that he gained no financial advantage. Quite the opposite - this money came direct from his own personal resources."
The website of the European Anti-Fraud Office, part of the European Commission, says it has a three-fold mission:
"It protects the financial interests of the EU by combating fraud, corruption and any other illegal activities;
"It protects the reputation of the European Institutions by investigating serious misconduct by their members and staff that could result in disciplinary or criminal proceedings;
"It supports the European Commission in the development and implementation of fraud prevention and detection policies."