British prime minister hopeful Boris Johnson has been ordered to attend a court hearing over allegations of misconduct in public office.
A judge at a London court said on Wednesday that an attempt to privately prosecute the politician can proceed.
“Having considered all the relevant factors, I am satisfied that this is a proper case to issue the summons as requested for the three offences as drafted,” District Judge Margot Coleman said in a written ruling at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
“This means the proposed defendant will be required to attend this court for a preliminary hearing and the case will then be sent to the Crown Court for trial.”
The judge added that the accusations were so far unproven. However, the timing of the court hearing is embarrassing for the former foreign secretary, who is currently leading the race to replace Theresa May.
Mr Johnson's representatives argue the private prosecution is an attempt to derail Brexit.
The case against Mr Johnson has been brought by campaigner Marcus Ball and the 'Brexit Justice' group, and reportedly crowd funded with £200,000 (Dh928,813).
"Brexit Justice Limited is the product of a campaign to undermine the result of the Brexit referendum, and/or to prevent its consequences," said Mr Johnson's lawyer in a submission to the court.
"Its true purpose is not that it should succeed, but that it should be made at all. And made with as much public fanfare as the prosecution can engender."
Mr Johnson claimed during the 2016 referendum campaign that the UK sent £350 million (Dh1.62 billion) per week to the European Union.
The EU spending claim was written on the side of a bus belonging to the Vote Leave campaign, which was supported by Mr Johnson and fellow prime ministerial hopeful Michael Gove. Politicians suggested the £350m could be spent on Britain’s National Health Service instead. The figure was later discredited by the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, which described it as “highly misleading”.
A lawyer for the private prosecution said last week: “He [Mr Johnson] knew the figure was wrong – still, he chose to repeat it over and over and over.”
Mr Johnson’s lawyer said at an earlier hearing that his client denies acting “in an improper or dishonest manner at any time”.
A highly divisive and gaffe-prone figure, numerous polls have suggested Mr Johnson is the favourite, to lead the Conservative Party once Mrs May departs especially amongst Brexiteers. He has consistently refused to rule out a no-deal Brexit, which detractors say will send devastating economic shock waves across the UK.
The original Brexit date of March 29 has been pushed back to October 29 after parliament rejected Mrs May's withdrawal deal with the EU three times.
Talks with the opposition Labour Party also failed amid numerous disagreements, especially over a potential customs union with the EU.
Some MPs favour a second referendum on staying in the EU.