Jury set to go out as former Northampton MP and businessman stand trial over political donations
Closing statements have been made at a political donations trial involving former Northampton MP David Mackintosh and a businessman.
The court heard that David Mackintosh, aged 44, of Station Court, Northampton, and Howard Grossman, aged 61, of Greenacres, Bushey, Middlesex, met through the Sixfields development. The pair have pleaded not guilty to two counts of withholding information, namely the person or body making donations with intent to deceive, from the treasurer of a registered party.
In his closing statement, prosecutor William Boyce KC told Warwick Crown Court that the reasons for concealing the true identity of the donations from businessman Grossman were “only too obvious”. He told the jury that if the public learned that Grossman was the sole donor of the £39,000 to Mackintosh’s election campaign it would look “murky”.
Mr Boyce KC said: “The fact that Mr Grossman was the true donor had to be kept secret, else it may have done more harm than good.”
The court heard that the nine donations amounting to £39,000, with three totalling £30,000 alone, were facilitated by Grossman, who sent the money to his associates before they paid it to the Northamptonshire South Conservative Association. Mr Boyce KC said that the donors were not known by members of the association, or lived near Northamptonshire.
He added: “At almost every level there was an intent to deceive. How eager Mr Grossman was to effectively support Mr Mackintosh in his efforts.
“It’s clear that he, Mackintosh, told Grossman there was a shortfall and he was in effect asking Grossman for the money. Mackintosh took those risks because he really wanted the money, he really wanted to be an MP.”
The events are alleged to have taken place between April and September 2014 and are charged under a section of the election law which is being prosecuted for the first time, the Political Parties, Donations, Elections and Referendum Act 2000.
The defence counsels argue that the association’s treasurer at the time, Suresh Patel, knew of the hidden donations and had instructed Grossman to donate them in such a way to avoid political embarrassment. Mr Boyce KC accused the defence counsels of “pointing a finger at Mr Patel”.
Mackintosh’s barrister, Cairns Nelson KC, said that the former MP simply did not know that the funds were actually from his friend Grossman and that there is “not a single document that indicates he knew”.
Addressing the jury, he said: “It’s not about what you think of David Mackintosh’s political judgement in 2014 in going along with the acceptance of political donations, whether he’s been negligent or reckless or whether he asked the right questions or not.
“Ask yourself – uncluttered by all the irrelevant issues – what did he know? What am I sure he knew? Let’s have the full picture, not a ex-Tory MP on the make. This is a perfectly good man.”
However, Mr Boyce KC called the account that he was in the dark about the donations “almost laughable if it wasn’t so serious”. He painted the picture that it must have been “blindingly obvious” to Mackintosh, who was leader of the Northampton Borough Council at the time, that the donations were not as they seemed.
Grossman’s defence barrister, Neil Hawes KC, suggested that though there was no dispute about who paid the donations, the businessman was misled and was only following orders given by Mr Patel on how to make the payments to the association.
He claims that, as set out in a statement to the police in 2017, Mr Grossman had a conversation with Mr Patel about how to donate at a bus stop.
Mr Hawes KC said: “He told the police what he had done, told them what occurred, told them he was the source of the donations. We suggest that it means, does it not, that you know that a large proportion of Mr Grossman’s accounts in that statement were truthful.
“He was following that very plan Mr Patel had invited him to. Mr Grossman would have had no intention to deceive him. He was the man who has been misled.”
Mr Boyce KC called the narrative that the defence offered “unbelievable and untenable”.
The trial continues.