Councillor quits as Tower Hamlets launches investigation into allegations of ‘housing fraud’
PUBLISHED: 22:17 22 December 2018 | UPDATED: 13:08 24 December 2018
A senior member of Tower Hamlets Council elected just seven months ago has resigned while the town hall has begun an investigation into allegations about housing fraud.
But solicitor Mohammad Harun, who was elected in May’s Labour landslide winning a seat at Poplar’s prestigious Lansbury ward close to Canary Wharf, has told the East London Advertiser he will clear his name.
He stepped down last night when the investigation was ordered by mayor John Biggs.
The inquiry concerns three properties at Solander Gardens in Shadwell and Lancaster Avenue in Barking, which Mr Harun is documented to own, and a social housing tenancy at Grundy Street in Poplar.
One allegation being looking into is that the Tower Hamlets Homes rented property in Grundy Street has been “illegally sub let”, according to the council.
"We call on the council and Met Police to investigate all councillors to clear their names"
“We welcome the resignation of Muhammad Harun,” Conservative Opposition leader Andrew Wood said in a statement tonight to the Advertiser.
“I can confirm that council officers had a report about the allegations and are investigating. The allegations were submitted to the council on Monday.
“I am aware of similar allegations against other members, so we call on the council and the Met Police to investigate all councillors to clear their names.”
The Tory group is demanding that council members from all political parties be asked about their addresses and if they own private property while renting social housing. Legally enforceable rules prevent bidding for social housing by anyone owning private property.
"Residents expect the highest standards from councillors who are here to serve the community
Harun chaired the council’s pensions committee which oversees £1.56billion investments and was vice chair of the audit committee, as well as a being on the Housing Scrutiny committee which oversees fraud issues.
Mayor J Biggs said in a statement: “Mohammad Harun has resigned as a councillor following allegations made against him. The council’s monitoring officer will be investigating.
“Residents expect the highest standards from councillors who are here to serve the community.”
Mohammad Harun is a solicitor at Duncan Lewis law firm in Dalston, specialising in immigration and public law who supervises a team of solicitors and caseworkers representing “the most vulnerable in society”.
"I resigned and will fully respond to the allegations and clear my name"
But he denies the allegation and insists he will cooperating with the council investigation.
“I just resigned on Friday and told the monitoring officer that I will fully respond to the allegations and clear my name,” he told the paper.
“I considered staying on, but thought with this investigation I would not be able to focus on my work. I am expected to work for the residents and thought it best to step down and let others take over.”
He added: “I enjoyed my work with the residents, but at this stage it’s not wise or prudent for me to continue. There was no question about staying. I will devote all my energies into the council investigation.”
Asked about his alleged social housing tenancy while owning two houses, he responded: “It’s not best to go that far.”
Mr Harun maintains that he is living in the borough, at the address in Shadwell.
His professional work as a lawyer has included challenges against the Home Secretary over issues including unlawful detention, false imprisonment and unlawful delay in processing immigration and asylum applications.
Scandals over housing have hit the local authority before. A councillor was jailed in 2015 for housing fraud, with a confiscation order for £110,000 and was also made to pay the council’s £70,000 legal costs.
Meanwhile, the Labour administration is still embroiled in controversy over the suspension from the party of Cllr Mohammed Pappu for anti-semitic internet posts and has not attended council meetings since October, but has since made a full apology. Another councillor is also understood to have distributed similar online material.