A student working on a BBC investigation into Lutfur Rahman, mayor of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, leaked a secret list of BBC contacts to him, according to the East London Advertiser.
The mayor of Tower Hamlets is facing allegations of corruption following an investigation by the BBC’s Panorama programme. The programme, which is due to be aired tonight, will accuse Rahman of awarding £3.6 million to Bengali and Somali charities in return for electoral support.
Council officers had recommended that the charities receive £1.5 million, but Rahman used executive power to award over twice that. Opposition councillors, including Labour’s Joshua Peck, say the grants were made in return for support in the forthcoming mayoral election.
It has now also emerged that a female Bangladeshi journalism student working on the investigation leaked a confidential list of contacts to the mayor’s office.
Mr Rahman said: “A dossier passed to us by a BBC whistle-blower has revealed it to be in total breach of the BBC’s editorial guidelines as a public broadcaster.
“It has clear racist and Islamophobic overtones targeting the Bangladeshi Muslim community in Tower Hamlets.”
He went on to say that a criminal investigation was under way against the BBC, and accused it of “direct intervention” in the forthcoming election’s outcome, something the BBC denies.
A BBC spokeswoman said: “The Mayor’s claims are not true. There is no criminal investigation. We voluntarily notified the Information commissioner after we discovered that a researcher had taken confidential information held by the programme makers and provided it to the Mayor’s office.
“This breach includes material relating to the programme’s confidential sources. Our primary concern is to protect our sources and we are urgently investigating the matter.”
She also added that the Corporation strongly rejects any suggestion of racist or Islamophobic motivation.
Rahman was elected independent mayor of Tower Hamlets in 2010. Panorama says that nearly two-thirds of those who turned out to vote in that election were from the Bangladeshi community.
Rahman had previously led the council for the Labour party, but when the current mayoral system was introduced, he was deselected as party candidate following allegations of fraud and extremist links. Instead, he ran as an independent, utilising support within the borough’s large Bangladeshi community to sweep to victory with over 50 percent of the vote.
Daily Telegraph reporter Andrew Gilligan has previously reported on Rahman’s links to radical Islamism. In 2010, he was sacked as Labour group leader in the borough following a report suggesting he achieved his position with the help of the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), which Gilligan says, “works to create a sharia state and an “Islamic social, economic and political order” in Britain.”
Despite later being selected as the party’s mayoral candidate, he was dropped after a defeated opponent passed on evidence to Labour’s National Executive Committee linking Rahman to the IFE and a powerful local businessman, and alleging huge fraud in the selection.
Despite the setback, Rahman ran as an independent candidate and managed to beat the official Labour candidate by a substantial margin. He was backed by Labour’s candidate for London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, against party rules.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles today announced that he has sent inspectors to investigate the borough’s administration.