New evidence ‘could mean criminal charges’ over Lutfur Rahman’s corrupt 2014 Tower Hamlets election
- Credit: Mike Brooke
Fresh investigations into the corrupt 2014 Tower Hamlets local elections which led to mayor Lutfur Rahman’s ban from office could finally result in criminal prosecutions, an official report last night suggests.
A second interim report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary warns that evidence they’ve uncovered “provides realistic opportunities for investigation and prosecution”.
The original Met Police investigation “failed to secure evidence” which could have led to further inquiries which the inspectorate’s ‘Operation Lynemouth’ has now done.
Investigators are now seeking advice from the Crown Prosecution Service on whether it is legally safe for criminal proceedings.
Scotland Yard’s Fraud Squad had considered 10 issues during the original investigation, including fraud, bribery, perjury and tax evasion—but made no arrests.
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Operation Lynemouth has already identified “potential evidential opportunities”, although acknowledges still much work to be done.
The Met came under fire at the London Assembly in February for having taken no action for two years, after the High Court in 2015 found Rahman guilty of corrupt and illegal practices. There had been no criminal prosecutions.
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Police Commander Stuart Cundy was criticised for “major failings” when investigating electoral fraud and malpractice.
Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs, who won back control of the town hall for Labour in the 2015 election re-run, and Tory group opposition leader Peter Golds both addressed an Assembly special committee about criminal evidence given to Scotland Yard which failed to produce any action.
Cllr Golds, who held up a copy of a signed witness statement in a heated exchange at the committee session with Cmdr Cundy having claimed there had been a “lack of evidence”, is today calling for changing the town hall’s election team of officials from those tainted by the 2014 corruption.
“It is now official that the police investigations didn’t follow the available evidence,” cllr Golds told the East London Advertiser. “This latest Inspectorate report is moving in the right direction to clear up this election fraud issue.
“But the Met Police must assure the public that malpractice and corruption won’t be sidelined. We need a new team supervising the 2018 election, not those who failed so dismally last time.”
He is writing to the Metropolitan Commissioner urging such a change be confirmed “as soon as possible”.
Mayor Biggs welcomed the interim report showing Operation Lynemouth making progress, although it has “taken an extraordinary long time”.
He added: “I await the outcome of the Crown Prosecution Service decision about whether this will include possible prosecutions.’’
This follows his comments in February that the community “needs confidence that those responsible for trying to steal the 2014 election will be brought to justice”.
Yesterday’s Inspectorate of Constabulary report hints that investigators could now have the evidence needed for criminal prosecutions.