Police investigating SNP finances are examining an Amazon shopping account used to buy items, it emerged on Sunday.
Detectives probing claims that £600,000 worth of funds were misused by Scotland’s governing party are said to be investigating more than 1,000 alleged instances of fraud.
The Sunday Mail newspaper reported that officers are looking at an Amazon account used to buy items that may be linked to party finances.
The Police Scotland investigation into SNP finances began in June 2021, when questions were asked about where more than £600,000, raised in donations for independence referendums that never happened, had been spent.
Donors had been assured that the cash would be ring fenced to campaign in a future vote on leaving the UK, but there was no obvious sign of the money in the party’s accounts.
‘Police investigating 1,000 frauds’
Peter Murrell, the former SNP chief executive and husband of Nicola Sturgeon, was arrested in April and the party’s treasurer Colin Beattie was detained two weeks later before stepping down. Both have been released without charge,
Officers working on Operation Branchform are conducting a second round of interviews with key witnesses about the alleged fraud.
A source told the Sunday Mail: “There has been an Amazon account which may have been linked to SNP funds, and purchases from that account are being looked at very closely. There are over 1,000 individual items that the police are looking at as potential instances of fraud and go back a number of years.
“Goods range from quite expensive items to relatively cheap everyday products, but the point is that all of these things together could add up to a very serious criminal allegation. Companies and political parties cannot just spend money any way they want – there are rules about how people are paid and there are obviously huge tax implications as well.
“Everything needs to be properly accounted for, legally, and that is what the police are looking at here. It is an ongoing inquiry. Just because there hasn’t been any more arrests doesn’t mean nothing is happening – quite the opposite is true.”
Opposition MPs – ‘plot thickens’
As part of the investigation detectives have seized a £110,000 motorhome from the driveway of Mr Murrell’s elderly mother which some party sources have claimed was earmarked as a “battle bus” during the pandemic.
The motorhome was purchased from a dealership in Stafford, West Midlands, in early 2020 before being driven 300 miles north by two men.
Last week it emerged that police had consulted the National Crime Agency about its investigation into SNP finances. On Sunday opposition parties at Holyrood said the scale of the alleged fraud indicated a rotten culture within the SNP.
“The plot thickens and thickens,” Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, said. “This investigation goes to show how pervasive the culture of cover-up is at the heart of the SNP. Scotland deserves so much better than intrigue and sleaze from the SNP.”
Craig Hoy, the Scottish Conservative Party chairman, compared the investigation to something targeting organized criminals. “The sheer number of alleged offenses being investigated here is what you might expect from a probe into an organized crime syndicate, not a political party,” he said.
“Everyone who is questioned in relation to this has a duty to cooperate fully so the police can get to the bottom of this increasingly murky SNP scandal.”
A spokesman for the SNP said: “These issues are subject to a live police investigation. The SNP have been co-operating fully with this investigation and will continue to do so.