Tower Hamlets mayor guilty of corrupt election practices

Lutfur Rahman Tower Hamlets c. David Parry PA WireThe mayor of Tower Hamlets has been found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices over his election, which the High Court has now declared ‘void’.

Election commissioner Richard Mawrey QC, who sat as a judge at the High Court, concluded that the mayoral election for the east London borough should be re-run after Lutfur Rahman (right) was found to be involved in numerous offences including vote rigging and using local grants to buy votes.

Rahman, who has also been barred from seeking office again, was also found to have exploited spiritual influence through local imams.

He has also been ordered to pay £250,000 in costs.

Handing down his judgement, Mawrey said the mayor had "driven a coach and horses through election law and didn't care".

He also described Rahman as an "evasive and discursive witness whose evidence was untruthful on occasion".

The proceedings began after a group of four voters mounted the legal challenge under the 1983 Representation of the People Act. The allegations against Rahman and his agents included: impersonation; voting in someone else’s name; casting votes in the name of someone not on the electoral register; and acquiring voting papers and fraudulently casting them for the mayor.

During the course of the hearing, the court heard evidence from a handwriting expert that hundreds of ballot papers carried marks suggesting they could have been filled out by the same person.

It was also alleged that Muslim voters were told it would be “un-Islamic” not to support Rahman in last May’s ballot.

A statement on Rahman’s website following the judgement reads: “Today’s judgment has come as a shock – the Mayor strongly denies any wrongdoing and had full confidence in the justice system, and so this result has been surprising to say the least.

“We are seeking further legal advice on the matter in relation to a judicial review.”

The verdict comes after the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, ordered three commissioners into Tower Hamlets to take over financial control of the council at the end of last year.

Pickles made the decision after a government-commissioned PwC report found that Tower Hamlets had failed to comply with its ‘best value duty’ in relation to three of four property transactions the professional services firm looked at in detail.

The study was commissioned after a BBC Panorama investigation found that Rahman had more than doubled funding recommended by officers for Bengali-run charities during his time in office.

Rahman denied any wrongdoing in council spending, as well as the allegations surround last year’s mayoral election.

(Image source: David Parry/PA Wire)

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