Bankrupt Tower Hamlets ex-Mayor Lutfur Rahman fails to cut High Court ban from office

Lutfur Rahman at rally in Stepney Green after his 2015 downfall

Lutfur Rahman at rally in Stepney Green after his 2015 downfall - Credit: Archant

Disgraced ex-Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman lost the latest stage of a High Court fight yesterday to reduce the length of his ban from office and to be relieved from paying £500,000 legal bills after declaring himself bankrupt.

Tower Hamlets Town Hall

Tower Hamlets Town Hall - Credit: Archant

His lawyers were back in court earlier this week to challenge Election Commissioner Judge Richard Mawrey’s judgement last April on seven counts of corrupt and illegal practice in public office and in the discredited 2014 polls that got him re-elected.

He had been ordered to pay the legal costs of the four petitioners who took him to court under the Representation of the People Act, led by anti-corruption campaigner Andy Erlam, and to hand over £250,000 on account—but the petitioners say nothing has been paid.

Now the petitioners want to get their hands on property Rahman owns in Bow to force a sale to generate the cash.

Records show that he is “100 per cent the owner” of the property, despite his wife Ayesha Farid claiming she was a part-owner and had a beneficial interest. The court declared her “an unreliable witness”.

Tower Hamlets Town Hall

Tower Hamlets Town Hall - Credit: Archant

Chief Master Matthew Marsh’s verdict issued yesterday was in favour of the petitioners following his analysis of an assets trial in November of property Rahman owns.

Neither Rahman nor his wife had declared income to the taxman on two properties they rented out.

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He made himself bankrupt on November 18 “on his own petition”, the judge was told. His plea for relief from paying the legal costs was rejected.

Evidence suggested he had a “slapdash approach” to council declarations of (financial) interests with little regard for being “complete and accurate”, the judge declared.

He had made mortgage applications through a broker which were “inconsistent and contradictory”.

Rahman also failed in his bid this week to reduce the length of his five-year ban imposed last April by Judge Mawrey, in the hope of returning to political life before 2019.

Two judges blocked his attempt at a preliminary hearing on Tuesday to mount an appeal against Judge Mawrey’s rulings last April on bribery and malpractice.

But Lord Justice Lloyd and Mr Justice Supperstone did give him permission to launch a judicial review on a ruling about the way religious leaders were influencing Muslim voters in the 2014 election.

However, his five-year ban would remain even if a judicial review overturned that one aspect, the judges said.

The ruling on religious influence was “referred upwards” by the judges on the grounds that the law had not been tested for over a century, not that the judgement in law was incorrect.

Rahman was disqualified on seven grounds of corruption—but sought legal challenge on three of them, accepting (by default) the other four, a Town Hall source pointed out.

Two applications were rejected outright, concerning the way his executive-led administration gave out grants to certain organisations.