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U.K. police fine 20 people over 'partygate' political scandal

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND - MARCH 18: Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at the Scottish Conservative Party conference on March 18, 2022 in Aberdeen, Scotland. Scottish Conservative Party Leader, Douglas Ross, recently called for the Prime Minister's resignation over "Partygate" but he has offered Boris Johnson the full support of the Scottish party since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Michal Wachucik/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at the Scottish Conservative Party conference on March 18 in Aberdeen, Scotland.

LONDON — British police said Tuesday that they were fining 20 people over parties held by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his staff during coronavirus lockdowns, and that more people could face penalties.

The Metropolitan Police force said it wouldn't identify recipients of the fixed penalty notices, though Johnson's office has said it will reveal it if he gets one.

The force said officers were working through a "significant amount of investigative material" and more people could face fines later.

Opponents, and some members of the governing Conservative Party, have said Johnson should resign if he is issued a fine for breaking rules he imposed on the rest of the country during the pandemic.

Dozens of politicians and officials have been investigated over allegations that the government flouted its own pandemic restrictions.

Police sent questionnaires to more than 100 people, including the prime minister, and interviewed witnesses as part of the investigation.

The "partygate" scandal had left Johnson's tenure precarious before Russia launched a war in Ukraine more than a month ago that gave Britain's politicians more urgent priorities.

Johnson's grip on power was shaken by public anger over revelations that his staff held "bring your own booze" office parties, birthday celebrations and "wine time Fridays" in 2020 and 2021 while millions in Britain were barred from meeting with friends and family because of his government's COVID-19 restrictions.

Johnson has denied any wrongdoing, but he is alleged to have been at several of the dozen events in his 10 Downing St. office and other government buildings that are being investigated by the police.

He has acknowledged attending a "bring your own booze" party in the Downing Street garden in May 2020 during the first lockdown, but insisted he believed it would be a work event. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.