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No Charges Brought For Tower Hamlets Electoral Fraud After £1.7m Probe

A police officer stands outside a polling station at a community hall in Tower Hamlets on May 7, 2015 in London, England.
Dan Kitwood/Getty

A £1.7 million police investigation into electoral fraud during the 2014 Tower Hamlets mayoral election has concluded without sufficient evidence to charge anyone, Scotland Yard has said.

The troubled area of East London, which is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the country, has been rocked by years of claims of tribal political wars and sectarian tension.

London Police investigated 170 allegations of electoral fraud and malpractice relating to the 2014 mayoral election, after an electoral court found former mayor Lutfur Rahman guilty of a large number of corrupt and illegal practices, forcing him to step down in 2015.

The Metropolitan Police announced in a statement on Friday that the year-long inquiry involving 20 officers had unearthed “prima facie evidence” of a serious offence “not directly linked” to election fraud.

However, the probe “has not identified sufficient additional evidence or investigative opportunities to enable the Met to request the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider the charging of any individual in relation to offences of electoral fraud and malpractice arising from the 2014 mayoral election”.

The electoral court found Mr Rahman guilty of serious illegal practices including wielding “undue spiritual influence” over Muslim voters.

He was also accused of diverting millions in grants to charities run by Bangladeshis and Somalis in return for political support, paying local Bangladeshi TV channels and newspapers for positive coverage, and spending public funds on “vanity” offices and a car.

Prosecutors were handed the Met’s findings, but said it was “very unlikely that the Code for Crown Prosecutors test would ever be passed in respect of the potential offences that had been identified”.

Last year, the police were accused of “major failings” in the case, before the fresh investigation was launched. Today they said changes had been made and some evidence related to a number of offences has been passed on to City of London police for potential further examination.

Stuart Cundy, who led the extensive investigation, said the force “undertook this new investigation because it recognised there were concerns about the previous police investigations.”

He said “it was important to identify any immediate matters for action in advance of the 2018 mayoral election in Tower Hamlets.”

“I know some will remain concerned as to why the criminal investigation has not led to persons being convicted of a criminal offence,” he added, but claimed “the admissibility of evidence in an election court is quite different to criminal proceedings.”

Meanwhile, the disgraced Mr Rahman has made a number of attempts to launch new parties and re-enter politics and many of his associates are still elected officials.

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