Guilty of ‘Corrupt and Illegal Practices”.
Lutfur Rahman found guilty of illegal practices in Tower Hamlets election.
Hat tips to: SH, DT, Rosie and Adam.
Reports the BBC.
An east London mayoral election has been declared void and will have to be re-run after he was found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices.
Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey concluded Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman had breached election rules.
Four voters took legal action against Mr Rahman, who they alleged used “corrupt and illegal practices” in the election last year.
Mr Rahman, who denied any wrong-doing, has been banned from standing again.
‘Evasive and discursive’
At the special High Court hearing, Mr Mawrey said the mayor had “driven a coach and horses through election law and didn’t care”.
He added Rahman, who had been elected for a second term in the east London borough, would be “incapable” of standing in the new election.
Mr Mawrey – who sat as a judge – described Mr Rahman as “evasive and discursive witness whose evidence was untruthful on occasion”.
The four voters mounted the legal challenge under the 1983 Representation of the People Act.
Lawyers for the four made a series of allegations – including “personation” in postal voting and at polling stations and ballot paper tampering.
Lawyers for Mr Rahman, who was re-elected for independent party Tower Hamlets First last May, described the claims as “invention”, “exaggeration” and “in some cases downright deliberately false allegations”.
However the Election Commissioner said that Tower Hamlets First was “never really a party but the alter ego of Lutfur Rahman”.
One of Mr Rahman’s aides Alibor Choudhury was also found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices.
Rahman has been ordered to pay £250,000 costs.
The mayor of Tower Hamlets has been kicked out of office after being found guilty of widespread corruption in seeking office last May.
The mayoral election in the east London borough will be rerun after Lutfur Rahman and his supporters were found to have been involved in vote-rigging, seeking spiritual influence through local imams, and wrongly branding his Labour rival a racist.
Rahman, who has been banned from seeking office again, was also found to have allocated local grants to buy votes.
Judge Richard Mawrey QC handed down his verdict on Thursday after a 10-week hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice.
A group of four residents had called for last May’s mayoral election, in which Rahman triumphed over Labour rival John Biggs, to be declared void and rerun.
Rahman – who is Britain’s first directly-elected Muslim mayor – won the ballot after a campaign of “intimidation and corruption”, the petitioners alleged.
Mawrey was asked to consider if the election was fraudulent and should be rerun. If Rahman was found to be responsible, he faced being banned from office.
The mayor denied the allegations, which he dismissed as cynical and politically motivated.
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.
Muslim voters were told it would be “un-Islamic” not to support Rahman in last May’s ballot, it was alleged during the hearing.
Rahman was also accused of making false statements about the personal character of Biggs. The Bangladesh-born mayor was accused of “undue influence” by “means of spiritual influence” during the campaign and on polling day.
It was claimed that a Bengali newspaper, The Weekly Desh, published a letter signed by 101 Islamic leaders which was “intended to have undue influence on the Muslim population of the borough”, Hoar said. Their pronouncements had been used to cajole and control many within the local 65,000-strong Muslim community, it was claimed.
The court heard that one of the petitioners saw a voter crying outside a polling station after allegedly being told by a supporter of Rahman that it was “un-Islamic” not to vote for him, and that if you did not vote for him you were “not a good Muslim”.
Bribes were also used to win over voters, the court heard, with meals given out on election day. Hoar said that there was evidence of “interference with voters” – including in polling booths.
Rahman won the poll in the first round of the election, with 43%, and Biggs was second on 33%. In the runoff round he beat the Labour candidate by 52.7% to 47.7%.
The long-awaited verdict comes after the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, ordered a team of commissioners to ensure the council is properly run after a PwC report last year found it flouted spending rules.
Pickles took control of key functions of administration when he appointed three commissioners to oversee grant-giving, appointments, property deals and the administration of future elections in the borough.
Other functions such as education, social care provision, street cleaning, housing and homelessness services are unaffected by this move.
Rahman denied any wrongdoing in council spending, as well as the allegations surround last year’s mayoral election.
Where are they now?
Bob Pitt: Livingstone and Galloway rail against ongoing ‘witch hunt’ of Lutfur Rahman.
Richard Seymour and Ashok Kumar The smear campaign against Lutfur Rahman is an insult to democracy.
Seumas Milne, “The Muslim mayor of Tower Hamlets, the former Labour councillor Lutfur Rahman – often described as “extremist-linked” in the media – has been the target of a new media onslaught. No wrongdoing has been uncovered, including by the police.
And John Rees:
And how could we forget?
Oppose Islamophobic witch hunt against Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets. Socialist Worker.
Update: Met considers criminal inquiry into Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman
Rahman is told to vacate post immediately after election court judge finds him guilty of widespread corruption in seeking office last May.
The mayoral election in the east London borough will be rerun after Lutfur Rahman and his supporters were found to have been involved in vote-rigging, seeking spiritual influence through local imams and wrongly branding his Labour rival a racist.
Rahman, who has been banned from seeking office again, was also found to have allocated local grants to buy votes. He was ordered to pay immediate costs of £250,000 from a bill expected to reach £1m.
Azmal Hussain, a petitioner who said he would have lost his Brick Lane businesses if they had lost the case, dismissed claims that the judgment would be seen as racist.
“The people who have really suffered are ordinary people of all races who were supposed to accept corruption because it comes from someone claiming to be against racism. It is corruption, pure and simple, and it should be challenged,” he said.
We concentrate on the wider political implications of this, particularly for the left.
A very well-informed source – indispensable in fact – on Tower Hamlets and its politics is Trial by Jeory. Latest post: Tower Hamlets election court: Judge Richard Mawrey QC’s full ruling