Thurrock UKIP’s plans for a full raft of candidates and success at the May elections could be scuppered after they had lost the latest stage of their battle to avoid having to repay donations of £363,697.
Gifts by retired bookmaker Alan Bown between December 2004 and January 2006 were illegal as he was not registered to vote, the Court of Appeal said.
Party leader Nigel Farage threatened to appeal against the ruling, saying: “There is a very real danger that this could put UKIP out of business.”
‘If the money were forfeited it would go to the Treasury, not back to Mr Bown.
UKIP estimates its total bill, including legal costs, could reach £750,000.
Mr Farage said the party had nothing like that amount of money in its funds.
He told the BBC: “To effectively risk putting out of business [a party] which came second in the last set of national elections because one piece of paper was not filled in was not what this legislation was intended for.
“If we are not given leave to appeal or if we lose at appeal, well, we are going to have to have one hell of a whip round to keep the party in business.”
Mr Bown says he was mistakenly taken off the electoral register in December 2004 and did not find out until December 2005 he was not on it. He was reinstated in February 2006.