British PM Johnson's apartment renovation triggers investigation

British PM Johnson's apartment renovation triggers investigation

LONDON--Britain's Electoral Commission began an investigation on Wednesday into the refurbishment of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Downing Street apartment, saying there were grounds to suspect an offence may have been committed.
Johnson's opponents say he may have broken British rules by letting party donors secretly contribute tens of thousands of pounds to a luxury renovation of his living quarters. In a hot-tempered appearance in parliament on Wednesday, Johnson repeatedly insisted he had covered the cost of the renovation himself, though he avoided directly answering whether he had done so only after the fact, once the scandal had emerged.
Though Johnson has repeatedly weathered opprobrium for gaffes, crises over Brexit and disclosures about his adultery, he is now grappling with an array of accusations which opponents say show that he is unfit for office. "We are now satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred," the Electoral Commission said of the financing of the apartment above Number 11 Downing Street, where Johnson resides with his fiancee and 11-month old son.
"We will therefore continue this work as a formal investigation to establish whether this is the case," the commission said.
If it finds sufficient evidence of an offence, the commission can issue a fine of up to 20,000 pounds or refer the matter to the police.
After muddling his initial response to the coronavirus outbreak, Johnson has seen his political fortunes recover this year as his government organised one of the fastest vaccine rollouts in the world. The economy is set to rebound sharply after contracting 10% in 2020.
But disclosures that Johnson and his 33-year-old fiancee, Carrie Symonds, spent lavishly to redecorate their residence with a designer feted by royalty have touched a nerve. Just days before May 6 local elections across the United Kingdom, Johnson, at times shouting in exasperation and red in the face, said he had covered the costs and followed the rules.
"The answer is I have covered the costs," said Johnson under questioning in parliament from opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who cast Johnson as "Major Sleaze".