One of the faces of the UK Government’s Brexit advertisements is currently facing fraud charges.
Dea Baker, aka McGill, appears in a UK-wide campaign with her new company, Aqua and Rock.
The 52-year-old has denied stealing thousands of pounds from another business and defrauding insurance and finance companies.
Adverts appearing in The Metro and other UK newspapers and media websites show Ms Baker, who describes how her new venture has “adapted and survived” by adhering to the new rules regarding European trade.
It is understood the UK Government did not “source” Baker for the ad campaigns but paid a “media partner” to do so.
Question of rule breach
The SNP has accused the government of contravening advertising rules by failing to identify itself as the promoter, which the UK Government has denied.
Dundee MPs Stewart Hosie and Chris Law questioned cabinet minister Michael Gove about a number of sponsored stories that have appeared in newspapers and other media recently.
The party claims the adverts breached advertising guidelines, something the UK Government denied.
I am very happy to put my own name and that of the UK Government to all of this material.”
Cabinet secretary Michael Gove
Mr Hosie questioned cabinet secretary Michael Gove on Thursday during a cabinet office debate, in an exchange that took place before it came to light Baker, aka McGill, appeared in the campaign.
He said: “In relation to these native adverts regarding the so-called benefits of Brexit, the Advertising Standards Authority says that ‘marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such’, and that marketers — in this case, the UK Government — ‘must make clear that advertorials are marketing communications’.
“Some newspapers do say ‘Ad features sponsored by the UK Government’.
“Others say ‘in conjunction’ or ‘in association’, which is less clear.
“Many simply say ‘sponsored’ but not who by, and at least one newspaper describes the UK Government — the marketer — as a ‘contributor.
“Why have the government, as the marketer, chosen to flout the ASA code in this way?”
‘No evidence of any flouting of code’
Responding to Mr Hosie’s question in parliament, Mr Gove said the advertorials did not breach any of the country’s codes.
He said: “I have been furnished with no evidence of any flouting of the code.
“Of course if there are any complaints that have been raised by readers or citizens, we will of course investigate them.
“But it is the case that the Scottish Government themselves, entirely understandably, devote tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayer money to also furnishing content in newspapers such as The Press and Journal, The Courier and even a newspaper called The National, which I understand has some popularity among some communities in Scotland.”
He added: “I am very happy to put my own name and that of the UK Government to all of this material and I am also proud of the contribution that we have made to supporting independent press and media titles across Scotland.
“It is vital, as we move towards the Holyrood elections, that we have a strong and vital independent press and that newspapers such as the Glasgow Herald, The Press and Journal, the Dundee Courier and others should hold the Scottish Government to account for what has been happening over the last 14 years.”
Following the exchange, Mr Hosie said: “It speaks volumes that the UK Government is using money from the public purse to fund news stories in an attempt to promote Brexit, rather than relying on the companies to share their successes themselves. This is a clear sign that Brexit is a failing project.
“The UK Government has cherry-picked five businesses who have not faced the huge problems others have faced as a result of Brexit and used these examples across 16 newspaper adverts.
“This is hugely misleading. Michael Gove himself admitted that the issues businesses are facing across the UK are not just teething problems.
“And to top it off, the taxpayer-funded adverts look to breach a number of advertising rules.
“The UK Government must come clean on how much taxpayers’ money has been spent on this propaganda, apologise for misleading the public and finally recognise that rose-tinted, pro-UK-Government adverts are no substitute for fixing the very real problems which Brexit has caused.”
It is alleged McGill, of Fort Street, Broughty Ferry, embezzled £22,006.55 from Brassica between December 4 2017 and October 8 2018.
Between May 3 and July 11 2018, McGill allegedly uttered as genuine a personal guarantee featuring the name Rami Sarraf at Fort Street, White Pearl Dental Practice on Dudhope Terrace, CAS Leasing Co, Manor Farm, Southampton.
This was allegedly in the knowledge it had been forged, which led her to receive a leasing agreement worth £42,520.03.
McGill allegedly pretended to Armada Asset Finance, Topsham, Devon, that Danijel Vrbas was engaged to supply bespoke furniture to TayOne Food Limited for £37,000, between February 1 2018 and May 4 2018.
It is alleged this was false and McGill fraudulently received the money.
McGill is accused of committing an identical offence against Aurora Leasing Limited, Whetstone, London, between February 1 2018 and June 11 2018, for £37,700.
A government spokesperson said: “The focus of the transition campaign has always been on getting the country ready for the changes that came into force on January 1.
“The campaign has reached 99.7% of UK adults, and we know that the vast majority of businesses and citizens are taking the steps we need them to take and we continue to support them to do so.”