First the politics.
Since my last post (due to time and summer priorities, I’m writing less regularly) we’ve had one more defection in the Independent Group formerly known as Tower Hamlets First (who were formerly known as Independents).
Mufti Miah (pictured) has had the courage to do what other bigger mouths have been threatening to do for quite some time.
John Williams, the busy head of ‘democratic services’ at Tower Hamlets council, wrote this to councillors on July 31:
I have today received notice from Councillor Mohammed Mufti Miah that with immediate effect he is no longer a member of the Independent Group of councillors.
Councillor Miah has asked me to inform all Councillors of this. He will continue to serve on the Council as an independent (ungrouped) member.
Councillor Miah has told me that he wishes to thank everyone who he has had the honour of serving the community with, and he looks forward to serving the community in all constructive endeavours to improve the community and the lives of those who have elected the councillors.
Mohammed Mufti Miah joins Abjol Miah as the two lone defectors from the very unstable and unhappy ship of Lutfurites, who now number 15. More are sure to follow.
Now the comedy.
Here’s how that fine upstanding man of principle, Cllr Gulam Robbani responded to John’s email:
Dear Mr William,
Thank you for your email. I would be grateful if you can inform Cllr Abjol Miah and Mufti Miah if they would like to resign from the council and re-elect as independent or labour if that what they been dreaming about? Tory will not touch them with burg pole ! They were elected on back of THF and they should follow the UKIP model? UKIP MP resign from Tory and they were re-elected as UKIP ! Would both Miah follow the UKIP MP if they feel so confident? I would like to challenge both councillor to do that! [sic, ad nauseam]
I love the way Robbani admires the Ukip model so. Had all his honourable colleagues followed it throughout the years, by my count we would have had 11 by elections in total. Instead we have had none.
For the record, Ohid Ahmed defected from Labour to Lutfur/independent in 2010, as did Abdul Asad, Shafiqul Haque, Aminur Khan, Rabina Khan, Shahed Ali and Oliur Rahman. The latter two have defected two and three times respectively during their career (Shahed from Respect to Labour; Oli from Respect to Respect Independent, then to Labour).
And let’s not forget Maium Miah who jumped from the Tories to Lutfur in 2010 as well.
So good for Abjol Miah and Mufti Miah. They’re merely following a fine tradition in Tower Hamlets.
Now for the intrigue.
Last week, Sir Eric Pickles again singled out Tower Hamlets for mention as he launched his first initiative as David Cameron’s corruption tsar: a nationwide investigation into vote fraud. In various interviews he compared multiculturalism,
In a piece for the Daily Telegraph, he wrote this:
In Tower Hamlets, police and council staff failed to tackle intimidation – often in foreign languages – both inside and outside polling stations. Just as we have seen with child sexual exploitation in places such as Rochdale and Rotherham, institutionalised political correctness can lead to the state turning a blind eye to criminal conduct. But the law must be applied equally and fairly to everyone. Integration and good community relations are undermined by the failure to do so.
And in an interview with Sebastian Payne at the Spectator, he said this:
‘What appears to have happened in Tower Hamlets is similar to what happened in Rotherham, in the sense that as with sexual exploitation, people just turned a blind eye because they were worried about community cohesion and the same seems to have happened in Tower Hamlets’. To clarify, I ask does he believe that politicians and officials were too concerned about multiculturalism and ignored the years of warning signs from Tower Hamlets? ‘Yes, of course’.
This is dangerous territory for it risks feeding a racist narrative that [electoral] corruption exists only in non-white communities. There is enough corruption/fraud in the Palace of Westminster and Whitehall with MP/Lords expenses and government contracts to know that’s certainly not the case.
I suspect that in Tower Hamlets, the Met failed to do its job principally because it was wary of getting involved with murky local politics. That’s not to excuse them by the way: I think they’ve been useless over the years and as Sir Eric also points out in the Spectator, corrupt behaviour in one sphere can be symptomatic of rottenness elsewhere:
‘Tower Hamlets is a warning,’ Pickles says. ‘If you are willing to bend the rules and to break the law with regard to elections, you are willing to bend the rules and break the law with regard to the proper running of an authority’.
On August 3, Mr Justice Edis (pictured) delivered his ruling on the injunction freezing Lutfur’s assets, a decision made by an earlier judge after an application by the election petitioners who are seeking to recover their legal costs.
The full judgment, extending the injunction until Jan 31 2016, is here. I also recommend bookmarking it: it is characterised by a certain degree of scepticism regarding the origin of Lutfur’s legal fund.
Some of you will not be aware just how much money he managed to accumulate by way of what he says were loans before, during and after the Election Court hearing. If not, take a deep breath: £750,000.
As part of the court process, Lutfur was forced to disclose his list of donors/lenders, which included young nieces and nephews lending more than £100,000.
Having highlighted and uncovered so much corruption during the election court hearing, Francis Hoar, the petitioners’ barrister who was described as a “tour de force” by Richard Mawrey QC in April, quite clearly senses a certain back-of-the-envelope/cash-under-the-table modus operandi when it comes to those involved with Tower Hamlets First. He said the list of donors suggested “money laundering”.
In his judgment, Mr Justice Edis delivers a mild rebuke to Francis, but asks whether the loans were “designed to conceal” Lutfur’s “true wealth”:
There controversy during the hearing before me on 3rd August about Mr. Hoar’s description of this evidence as showing “money laundering”. This was, in my judgment, an unnecessarily inflammatory expression. Mr. Hoar made it immediately clear that he did not mean that any of this money was the proceeds of crime. To my mind that makes the use of the term inapt. What he actually meant was that this evidence casts grave doubt on the suggested source of the sum of £749,500. If it was not loans from the 52 named people or companies was it actually the defendant’s money? If so, was the arrangement designed to conceal this fact so that his true wealth remained hidden from the claimant?
Following Lutfur’s ‘Defend Democracy’ rally at the Waterlily at the end of April, Labour NEC member Christine Shawcroft volunteered to become a trustee for a properly constituted legal fund; she even wrote a cheque for the grand sum of £100. As a result, she was suspended by the party.
It seems as though she was the only Trot to put her money where her mouth was when it came to backing Lutfur. But that fund never even got off the ground. In the background, there was a move by Lutfur’s supporters to boost the coffers of the existing fund. Lutfur’s lawyers were due to lodge the details of his loan arrangements with the court on Friday.
If suspicions remain, it won’t just be lawyers asking serious questions.
For the fund, there 123 transactions listed from 53 separate people or organisations.
Thanks to the excellent technical work of Love Wapping here, we can see a summary below:
|CLR Sullik Ahmed||60,000|
|Mohammed Abdul Munim||60,000|
|All Seasons Lettings||40,000|
|Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi)||24,500|
|London Training Centre||22,000|
|CLR Aminur Khan||14,500|
|CLR G Rabbani||10,000|
|Saif Uddin Moni||8,000|
|Azm Adbullah Zaki||5,000|
|Nafisa Nargis Robbani||5,000|
|CLR Maium Miah||4,500|
|Mehrajul Islam Bokul Syed||3,000|
|Syed Ferdous Ali||3,000|
|Syed Farazul Islam||2,000|
|Syed Misbaul Reza||2,000|
|Kamal Uddin Chowdhury||1,300|
Top of the chart is Lutfur’s niece, Foujiya Sultana, who lives with him in Old Monatgue Street. She’s aged 23. Here is what Mr Justice Edis had to say about this in his judgment:
The “loans” identified…total £749,500 and were made by 53 different donors. Ms. Turner, the claimant’s solicitor has filed evidence to show that some of these individuals are not likely to have been able to afford such sums. I will not set it out in full, but an example is Foujiya Sultana. She is said to have lent the defendant £80,000 between September and December 2014 and a further £2,500 since. The defendant said in his evidence at the trial that Foujiya Sultana was his niece aged 23 or 24 years. She has a job which is not likely to enable her to acquire large capital sums.
Rafia Munni is said to have paid £8,000 directly to K&L Gates [Lutfur’s solicitors] on 17th July 2014. This is the only payment so described and I infer that the rest of the payments (amounting to £741,500) were made to the defendant who paid them onwards to K&L Gates. This inference is supported by the payments out to that firm from the defendant’s Natwest account to which I will come shortly. In addition to that payment Rafia Munni paid further sums amounting to £34,730 in September and November 2014. Again, the evidence suggests that her employment is unlikely to generate such sums.
Limehouse.com is said to have lent £25,000 and the London Training Centre £22,000. The financial circumstances of these companies, so far as the evidence reveals, do not permit the making of such loans. Therefore, the suggested sources of these payments into the defendant’s bank accounts are questionable.
Where did the money come from? A further question is this: why did all these people lend the defendant money? A donation to a political cause is one thing, but a loan implies an expectation of repayment. Why did anyone think that the defendant would be able to repay £749,500 in loans? According to him, he has a 26% share in one property in London and £12,659.62 in the Bank. It is reasonable to infer that some of these lenders must have a different view of the creditworthiness of the defendant than this. How has this come about?
Other notable names on the list include Cllr Sullik (aka Suluk) Ahmed, who is said to have lent £60,000. According to his current register of interests he has no employment or declarable income. He is said to be reasonably wealthy from a house renovations company he used to run.
Other councillors include Maium Miah with £4,500. According to his register of interests as of August 2015, his employment is as a Community Development Worker at the Island Neighbourhood Project, Methodist Church (although according to this statement dated October 2014, that project has since closed down). Cllr Aminur Khan, Rabina’s husband, lent £14,500, while Cllr Ghulam Robbani seems to have had a spare £10,000.
Quite possibly the wealthiest name on the list is Amirul Choudhury, who gave/lent £30k. He owns and runs successful ChyTel Communications a mobile phone shop on Mile End Road and which forever advertises in East End Life.
A former council employee, Mazharul Alom, who used to work for not a great deal of money in Lutfur’s mayoral office before suddenly walking out rather abruptly on John Biggs last month, is also on the list. He appears to have had £3,500 spare. He gave that money to Lutfur by cheque on May 8, a few days after the Waterlily when the calls for help were at their most intense. How very generous.
The full list of transactions disclosed to the court is below.
A number of people are now examining each and every one. Anyone who has solid evidence or credible information and not mere speculation, please get in touch.
Lutfur’s lawyers have stressed throughout there is no wrongdoing in any of this.
|2||19/08/2014||All Seasons Lettings||5,000|
|3||19/08/2014||All Seasons Lettings||15,000|
|16||24/10/2014||All Seasons Lettings||10,000|
|17||31/10/2014||CLR Maium Miah||2,000|
|21||Nov/2014||Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi)||3,500|
|22||Nov/2014||Syed Misbaul Reza||2,000|
|29||Nov/2014||Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi)||5,000|
|31||Nov/2014||Saif Uddin Moni||1,000|
|37||Nov/2014||CLR Aminur Khan||2,000|
|38||Nov/2014||All Seasons Lettings||10,000|
|39||Nov/2014||CLR G Rabbani||5,000|
|40||Nov/2014||Nafisa Nargis Robbani||5,000|
|42||06/11/2014||Mohammed Abdul Munim||25,000|
|50||03/12/2014||Mohammed Abdul Munim||25,000|
|52||19/12/2014||CLR Aminur Khan||10,000|
|54||29/12/2014||Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi)||10,000|
|59||30/12/2014||Mehrajul Islam Bokul Syed||3,000|
|60||30/12/2014||CLR Maium Miah||2,500|
|62||02/01/2015||CLR Aminur Khan||2,500|
|63||05/01/2015||Syed Farazul Islam||2,000|
|66||26/01/2015||Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi)||1,000|
|68||Feb/2015||London Training Centre||5,000|
|70||02/02/2015||Saif Uddin Moni||4,000|
|75||06/02/2015||London Training Centre||7,000|
|87||09/03/2015||Saif Uddin Moni||2,000|
|89||09/03/2015||Kamal Uddin Chowdhury||1,000|
|92||10/03/2015||Syed Ferdous Ali||3,000|
|93||10/03/2015||London Training Centre||5,000|
|97||16/03/2015||London Training Centre||5,000|
|99||07/04/2015||Saif Uddin Moni||1,000|
|100||10/04/2015||CLR Sullik Ahmed||15,000|
|101||13/04/2015||CLR Sullik Ahmed||15,000|
|103||16/04/2015||Kamal Uddin Chowdhury||300|
|105||28/04/2015||CLR Sullik Ahmed||10,000|
|106||30/04/2015||CLR G Rabbani||5,000|
|109||05/05/2015||CLR Sullik Ahmed||20,000|
|113||13/05/2015||Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi)||5,000|
|116||14/05/2015||Azm Adbullah Zaki||5,000|
|121||15/05/2015||Mohammed Abdul Munim||10,000|