Police launch investigation into fraud claims at Shadwell and Lansbury by-elections
PUBLISHED: 17:32 22 February 2019 | UPDATED: 17:45 22 February 2019
A specialist police unit ordered into Tower Hamlets after a voting scandal has received 17 allegations of fraud or malpractice relating to by-elections held earlier this month.
Detectives from the Special Enquiry Team (SET) are investigating complaints, including ballot tampering, postal vote fraud and false voter registration, regarding elections held in Shadwell and Lansbury wards on February 7.
In Shadwell, Harun Miah swooped to victory for Aspire – a party started by the disgraced former mayor Lutfur Rahman last year.
Mr Rahman was banned from standing for office for five years in 2015 after being found guilty of electoral fraud.
A report by Det Chief Supt Sue Williams, released this week, revealed that police had passed 14 allegations onto the SET.
She said: “The Metropolitan Police take any allegations of electoral fraud or malpractice seriously and will ensure that it plays its part to protect the integrity of the electoral process. Officers are proactively monitoring all information and intelligence.”
The by-elections followed the resignations of two Labour councillors. Mr Miah won 35 per cent of the vote.
He has previously served as a councillor for Mr Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First party and joined Aspire when it was formed in January 2018. He lost his seat at the full local elections in May last year.
At the count an Aspire representative said Mr Harun was “an honourable man who would serve Tower Hamlets well”.
Labour’s Rajib Ahmed won Lansbury ward with 1308 votes.
Aspire’s Ohid Ahmed, Mr Rahman’s former deputy mayor, came in second with 1002 votes.
The council’s chief executive and returning officer Will Tuckley said: “The council’s elections team worked hard putting preparations in place to ensure each ballot ran smoothly, safely, securely and in the spirit of free and fair democracy.”
Tower Hamlets implements the toughest election security measures of any council in the country.
Anti-fraud officers equipped with body-worn cameras were deployed at polling stations in both wards when polls were open.
Nine officers were also stationed at the count in the town hall and a new photographic entry system was put in place to stop anyone who should not be there entering.
Supt Williams said: “The policing plan was built on the lessons learnt from previous elections and feedback from different sections of the community and key stakeholders.”
A Tower Hamlets council spokesman added: “Our feedback from political parties, candidates, the police and the public has been that the by elections were a success and well run.
“However, all allegations or reported incidents received, however trivial, will be robustly looked at and formally investigated if considered necessary.”