'Vexatious charges': MP turns on accusers after acquittal in fraud trial
- Credit: Mike Brooke
The Poplar and Limehouse MP who has been acquitted of housing fraud has made a scathing attack on those making "false allegations" against her.
Apsana Begum emerged today from her eight-day trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court, which began on July 21, denying three charges of housing fraud against Tower Hamlets Council.
"It has caused me great distress and damage to my reputation, as a survivor of domestic abuse facing these vexatious charges," she said in a statement.
"The last 18 months of false accusations, online sexist, racist, Islamophobic abuse and threats to my safety have been exceedingly difficult."
She thanked the jury for vindicating her and the "judge for presiding over this trial".
Ms Begum said she plans to take the issue further, adding: "I will be consulting and considering how to follow up so that something like this doesn’t happen again to anyone else."
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Tower Hamlets Council which brought the prosecution against the MP has accepted the jury’s verdict. A town hall spokesman said: “We have a duty to investigate any allegations of housing fraud to ensure public money is spent correctly and that those waiting on our housing register are treated fairly.
“Reviewing the evidence with the benefit of independent legal advice was found to be strong enough to bring it to court for a case to answer."
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But the campaigning East End activist MP, who won her seat for Labour at the 2019 general election with a landslide 29,000 majority, also went on the attack.
She said she would like to "get on with my job of representing my constituents" and opposing the Covid decisions made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's "reckless government which has caused so many families to lose loved ones who should still be with us today and so much hardship that could have been avoided".
She praised "comrades and friends" in her Poplar and Limehouse constituency who she said had stood by her.
Allegations first emerged against Ms Begum during the 2019 election campaign at a hustings held at St Luke’s Millwall Church on the Isle of Dogs and at the Metropolitan University's Aldgate campus when she was challenged from the audience over allegations of jumping the East End's 20,000-long housing queue.
The issue persisted through the election campaign, even after her victory at the polls, which led to inquiries by the council's fraud investigations team a month after her election win.
It has taken 18 months to end, with the acquittal by the jury at Snaresbrook.