Lutfur Rahman has been removed as mayor of Tower Hamlets after being found guilty of corruption, bribery and using “undue spiritual influence” over voters. He will be banned from standing for re-election to the vacant mayoralty.
Judge Mawrey also said that the election of all councillors for Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First party was achieved by corrupt practices. In his summary he told a packed court that the petitioners had shown “enormous courage” in bringing the petition, as they did so at their own risk and faced financial ruin if they failed. They had been “vilified” but had “hung in there.”
The lead petitioner Andy Erlam said outside court: “Tower Hamlets town hall was taken over by a bunch of gangsters and today they have been thrown out. But this is only the tip of the iceberg, and we want a further investigation into the rest of the corruption.”
Mawrey said of the former mayor: “It is guaranteed Mr Rahman will denounce this judgement as racist and Islamophobic. It is nothing of the sort… the natural sense of solidarity (of the Bangladeshi community) has been subverted.”
London Assembly politician John Biggs welcomed the judgement into the conduct of last year’s Mayoral election in Tower Hamlets which has exonerated the Labour politician, following smears in the election campaign and in court hearings, that he was a ‘racist’.
Speaking after the Election Court judgement hearing today he said:
“I welcome today’s judgement by the Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC even though I did not seek this matter being decided in this way.
“For the last year my reputation has been on trial and in recent weeks I have had to defend my good name and integrity in court, in what has been a bruising experience.
“I am relieved that serious but false allegations and smears made against me have been dismissed by the Election Commissioner and were in his opinion ‘deliberately dishonest.’
“I am also pleased that the Commissioner took the view that ‘no rational person could think Mr Biggs was a racist or anything of the sort’
“These allegations were deliberately made, in order to polarise opinion and influence the result of last May’s Mayoral election in Tower Hamlets. I am pleased that when tested in court, they have been dismissed by the commissioner and I have been completely exonerated.”
The judge pointed out that Rahman had deliberately set-out to make the Bangladeshi Muslim community feel discriminated against. He said Rahman and his team talked about the Bangladeshi community “as if they are a small, marginalised minority.” However, Muslims are 35 percent of the population in Tower Hamlets, compared to 27 percent Christian.
Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, was succinct in his response.
“I sent in Commissioners into the dysfunctional mayoral administration following the mismanagement of public money and the breakdown of democratic accountability, Pickles said. “An independent Election Court has now found the Mayor and his agents guilty of corrupt practices, including bribery and the abuse of public money.
“This judgment vindicates our action to intervene. The immediate priority of the Commissioners must be to ensure a free and fair election takes place on 7 May.
“I will now ask the Commissioners whether further resources or powers are necessary to help them stamp out this culture of corruption in Tower Hamlets. The Commissioners’ powers may need to be extended in the interim before any by-election.
“The police also need to take steps to stop further corrupt practices following this damning judgement. We must also challenge those who seek to spread further division in light of the ruling. There can be no place for rotten boroughs in 21st Century Britain.”
Ken Livingstone is yet to make a comment on the judgement. The loss of the case is likely to cost Rahman £1m which he will be required to pay personally.
More to come