Rough justice for anti-corruption petitioners who got Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman banned and now face £1m lawyers' bills
PUBLISHED: 20:26 11 July 2018 | UPDATED: 20:59 11 July 2018
Petitioners led by anti-corruption campaigner Andy Erlam who brought down Lutfur Rahman's corrupt regime running Tower Hamlets Council have been slapped with legal bills of £1.1 million from their own lawyers.
They won their High Court action outright in 2015 and had all costs awarded against Rahman—but he still hasn’t paid a penny, apart from £7,000 seized from a bank account.
All they have gained out of it so far is a little terraced cottage in Bromley-by-Bow to be sold off to recover their costs, but worth just £250,000, that was seized by court order—while other property in Whitechapel worth £3m has managed to slip through their fingers.
Now the 68-year-old documentary producer is calling for the Prime Minister to get her government to pick up the tabs for their legal bills.
He has written this week to Communities and Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire for help.
“I am asking if the government can pay for our legal costs in bringing the successful election petition against Rahman,” his letter states. “We are faced with legal fees while Rahman has escaped his responsibilities as ordered by the High Court.
“We took the case in the public interest, with no financial or political advantage expected nor received. But it seems wrong that we are now expected to carry the massive financial burden ourselves.”
Erlam is planning to deliver a second letter to 10 Downing Street addressed to the Prime Minister.
He has also asked Tower Hamlets Council to write-off the £48,000 they are claiming from the Rahman case “so there is more to go round” and has been in touch with chief executive Will Tuckley as “it’s the least they can do”.
"We took the case in the public interest with no financial or political advantage expected nor received—but it seems wrong that we are expected to carry the massive financial burden"
It was the petitioners who got the corrupt Rahman regime ousted in 2015 which led the way for Labour to regain the town hall.
They won a six-week High Court hearing which overturned the 2014 election won by Rahman with evidence of vote-rigging, malpractice and intimidation.
Rahman was banned from office, along with the cabinet member described in court as his “henchman” Alibor Choudhury.
“We didn’t expect a medal,” Andy tells tomorrow’s East London Advertiser. “But we did expect the authorities to step in after we did their job for them.”
The initial bill from the first law firm he hired was £720,000, which he has challenged and is negotiating a lower fee. Two other practices are asking for almost £400,000 between them.
“Lawyers have charged fees that are more than Rahman’s assets that we have been trying to secure,” Andy reveals. “So far we’ve only been able to get the house in Bromley-by-Bow which is worth just £250,000 once the mortgage and legal costs are paid.
“The irony is that we won the case—but still face £1m costs because the High Court plays no part in recovering costs.”
He added: “Unfortunately, our legal representatives have let us down very, very badly.”
Rahman’s outstanding costs awarded against him eventually reached £500,000 before he declared himself bankrupt in 2015.
Next to nothing has came in for the petitioners since then—except the £1.1m bills from their own lawyers.