Police probe into Tower Hamlets election fraud which returned Lutfur Rahman in 2014
- Credit: Archant
Police are starting a fresh investigation into Tower Hamlets voting fraud after coming under fire earlier this year at the London Assembly.
The Met has asked the City of London Police to carry out an independent review into its earlier investigations which is also to look into the Tower Hamlets Communities, Localities and Culture Youth project.
Anti-corruption campaigner Andy Erlam, whose High Court petition got Luftur Rahman banned from office as Mayor in 2015, has been pressing for action for two years, claiming police had failed to take any action on election fraud.
“There can be no cover-up,” he told the East London Advertiser. “Industrial-scale financial fraud at the town hall is now in the spotlight.”
Now Scotland Yard recognises that “concerns have been raised” about the previous police investigations into criminal allegations of electoral fraud in the 2014 election for mayor which returned Rahman and his Tower Hamlets First party—which has also been banned—for a second term of office.
The Met came under fire at the London Assembly in February for having taken no action after the High Court found him guilty of corrupt and illegal practices, but he has faced no criminal prosecution.
Police Commander Stuart Cundy was criticised for “major failings” when investigating allegations of electoral fraud and malpractice.
Tower Hamlets Tory group opposition leader Peter Golds, giving evidence to the Assembly, had sent many letters with witness names and details of election fraud to Scotland Yard before and during the tainted election.
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“I would have given admissible statements as evidence after the election,” he told the meeting. “But no-one asked me for it.”
He held up a copy of one of the letters he sent to former Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, then snapped at Met Commander Stuart Cundy: “So here is your evidence!”
Mr Cundy claimed Cllr Golds had been interviewed, which was strongly denied in a heated exchange.
Police had received 164 complaints of election malpractice, which led to two people being cautioned and one being charged with a candidate nomination offence. Another six received verbal or written warnings. That election was declared void and re-run in 2015 when Labour won back control of the town hall.
Police also came in for a scathing criticism today from Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs, who also gave evidence to the London Assembly.
He told the Advertiser: “The Met has finally accepted they need to look again at the electoral fraud found to see what charges can be brought against those involved.
“It beggars belief that the Met have yet to convict anyone, despite the courts finding Tower Hamlets First guilty of corruption and overturning the election.
“The corruption uncovered in the 2014 election has cast a long shadow over Tower Hamlets politics. Our community need confidence that those responsible for trying to steal that election will be brought to justice.”
The local authority now under Mayor Biggs is cleaning up “the chaos and wrong-doing” left by Rahman. Government commissioners sent in to monitor how council funds were being dished out in 2014 finally left the town hall last month.
Deputy Mayor Sirajul Islam said: “It’s astounding that people who were corruptly elected as part of a now banned political party can still be active in local politics.
“The former Tower Hamlets First councillors seem to have learnt nothing. I hope this new investigation will help to make sure those that served at the top of a party intent on corrupting our democracy are never allowed near power again.”
Scotland Yard said last night that a team of specialist investigators is to review the 27 files arising from the High Court.
They want to see whether those files contain anything that changes the previous advice from the Crown Prosecution Service, or that changes the decisions made by the police or needs further investigation.