01/05/2012 12:35 BST | Updated 01/07/2012 06:12 BST

Michael Brown, Multi-Millionaire Lib Dem Donor, Jailed For Fraud

Convicted fraudster and former Liberal Democrat donor Michael Brown has been directed by a judge to start his seven-year jail sentence, a police spokesman confirmed today.

The multi-millionaire appeared at Southwark Crown Court in central London after arriving back in Britain from Spain last night, a City of London Police spokesman said.

"He has now been sent to serve his seven-year sentence," he said.

Brown received a seven-year jail term in 2008 at Southwark Crown Court in his absence after he fled the UK to the Caribbean.

He was arrested in January in the Dominican Republic and flown to Spain last month.

Andrew Penhale from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) central fraud group said they were pleased to have secured his extradition from Spain.

"After nearly four years of evading justice, Michael Brown has been informed of the seven-year sentence imposed in his absence, after he absconded part way through his trial at Southwark Crown Court in 2008," he said.

"We would like to thank the City of London Police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) and the Foreign Office for their assistance in bringing Brown back to the UK."

Brown donated about £2.4 million to the Lib Dems ahead of the 2005 general election, its largest donation to date.

He had been living on the Caribbean island under the name of Darren Nally, officials in the Caribbean said.

An international manhunt was launched when Brown went on the run after stealing nearly £8 million from the former chairman of Manchester United.

He posed as a highly successful bond dealer and claimed connections with royalty to steal the money from Martin Edwards.

He secretly used investors' money to fund the record donation to the Lib Dems' election war chest and also blew a large slice of his ill-gotten gains on an "extravagant" lifestyle.

An Electoral Commission inquiry in 2009 found the Lib Dems accepted the fraudster's donation in good faith and cleared the party of all wrongdoing.

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: "The Liberal Democrats fully welcome the news that Michael Brown is finally back in Britain and in custody, serving the sentence he was rightfully given.

"The Electoral Commission inquiry in 2009 found that the party accepted the donation in good faith, and were in no way at fault.

"It cleared the party of all wrongdoing and accepted that at the time of the donation, 5th Avenue Partners Ltd was a permissible donor."