UK watchdog steps up probe into Johnson's apartment refurb

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Frank Augstein/AP

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session in parliament in London, Wednesday, April 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

LONDON – Britain's political spending watchdog said Wednesday it was scaling up an investigation into Prime Minister Boris Johnson's finances, saying there were “reasonable grounds” to suspect an offense had been committed over the pricey refurbishment of the prime minister's Downing Street residence.

The Electoral Commission has been looking into whether any funds used to pay for renovating the apartment should have been declared under the law on political donations, amid claims Johnson received a loan from his Conservative Party for the work.

The commission said it was “now satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offense or offenses may have occurred," and a formal investigation would take place.

“The investigation will determine whether any transactions relating to the works at 11 Downing Street fall within the regime regulated by the Commission and whether such funding was reported as required,” the commission said in a statement.

The Electoral Commission has the power to impose fines for breaches of spending rules, and can refer cases to the police.

Last week, Johnson's former top aide, Dominic Cummings, claimed that the prime minister planned to get Conservative Party donors to pay for the refurbishment of the taxpayer-funded apartment where Johnson lives in the apartment with fiancée Carrie Symonds and their baby son, Wilfred.

Cummings, who left his job late last year, said he had told Johnson the plan was “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal.”

Johnson said Wednesday in the House of Commons, “I have paid for Downing Street refurbishment personally"