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First the politics.

bigpicSince 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:

Dear Councillors,

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.

Eric_Pickles_OfficialLast 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’. 

Which brings us to the ongoing court saga involving Lutfur Rahman. Love Wapping has been doing a great job in reporting, e.g. here and here.

6716_Andrew_EdisOn 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?

Dynamite stuff.

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:

From Subtotal (£)
Foujiya Sultana 82,500
CLR Sullik Ahmed 60,000
Mohammed Abdul Munim 60,000
Muzirul Haque 42,000
All Seasons Lettings 40,000
Amirul Choudhury 35,000
Rafla Munni 31,000
Limehouse.com (10,8,7) 25,000
Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 24,500
Shamsun Noor 24,000
London Training Centre 22,000
A Chowdhury 20,000
Anuwar Ali 20,000
Shenaly Miah 20,000
Lutfur Rahman 17,700
CLR Aminur Khan 14,500
Rafia Munni 11,730
Mamunur Rahman 11,500
Rina Begum 11,000
Ahfaz Miah 10,000
Ashadur Rahman 10,000
CLR G Rabbani 10,000
Jayed Khan 10,000
M lslam 10,000
Roseina Yasmin 10,000
Saif Uddin Moni 8,000
Masuma Sultana 7,000
Rujina Yasmin 7,000
Nanu Miah 6,000
Salik Zahid 6,000
Zuber Ahmed 6,000
Afia Farid 5,000
Azm Adbullah Zaki 5,000
Baig Ahmed 5,000
Fateha Ahmed 5,000
Mornotaz Begum 5,000
Nafisa Nargis Robbani 5,000
Sanjid Sarni 5,000
CLR Maium Miah 4,500
Jabir Miah 4,000
Shahed 4,000
Dipa Begum 3,000
Mazharul Alom 3,000
Mehrajul Islam Bokul Syed 3,000
Razia Salique 3,000
Saleh Abed 3,000
Syed Ferdous Ali 3,000
Syed Shahriar 3,000
Suma Rahman 2,000
Syed Farazul Islam 2,000
Syed Misbaul Reza 2,000
Kamal Uddin Chowdhury 1,300
Tufeil Sattar 1,000
Ayesha Farid 270
Total £749,500

 

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.

No Date From Amount (£)
1 17/07/2014 Rafia Munni 8,000
2 19/08/2014 All Seasons Lettings 5,000
3 19/08/2014 All Seasons Lettings 15,000
4 03/09/2014 Shahed 2,000
5 03/09/2014 Rafia Munni 1,730
6 03/09/2014 Rafla Munni 7,500
7 04/09/2014 Shenaly Miah 15,000
8 05/09/2014 Rujina Yasmin 5,000
9 08/09/2014 Shahed 2,000
10 08/09/2014 Ayesha Farid 270
11 08/09/2014 Rafla Munni 5,500
12 15/09/2014 Foujiya Sultana 5,000
13 15/09/2014 Foujiya Sultana 10,000
14 15/09/2014 Foujiya Sultana 10,000
15 19/09/2014 Nanu Miah 6,000
16 24/10/2014 All Seasons Lettings 10,000
17 31/10/2014 CLR Maium Miah 2,000
18 Nov/2014 Afia Farid 1,000
19 Nov/2014 Rafla Munni 2,000
20 Nov/2014 Rafla Munni 3,000
21 Nov/2014 Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 3,500
22 Nov/2014 Syed Misbaul Reza 2,000
23 Nov/2014 Syed Shahriar 3,000
24 Nov/2014 Rafia Munni 2,000
25 Nov/2014 Shenaly Miah 5,000
26 Nov/2014 Rafla Munni 3,000
27 Nov/2014 Foujiya Sultana 15,000
28 Nov/2014 Rafla Munni 10,000
29 Nov/2014 Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 5,000
30 Nov/2014 Mamunur Rahman 5,000
31 Nov/2014 Saif Uddin Moni 1,000
32 Nov/2014 Lutfur Rahman 3,000
33 Nov/2014 Rujina Yasmin 2,000
34 Nov/2014 Dipa Begum 3,000
35 Nov/2014 Shamsun Noor 5,000
36 Nov/2014 Shamsun Noor 7,000
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
41 03/11/2014 Roseina Yasmin 10,000
42 06/11/2014 Mohammed Abdul Munim 25,000
43 14/11/2014 Lutfur Rahman 1,000
44 14/11/2014 Lutfur Rahman 2,000
45 18/11/2014 Lutfur Rahman 2,000
46 20/11/2014 Mamunur Rahman 3,000
47 21/11/2014 Afia Farid 2,000
48 Dec-2014 Fateha Ahmed 5,000
49 Dec/2014 Amirul Choudhury 10,000
50 03/12/2014 Mohammed Abdul Munim 25,000
51 09/12/2014 Foujiya Sultana 40,000
52 19/12/2014 CLR Aminur Khan 10,000
53 19/12/2014 Anuwar Ali 10,000
54 29/12/2014 Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 10,000
55 29/12/2014 Mamunur Rahman 3,000
56 29/12/2014 Jayed Khan 10,000
57 29/12/2014 Mornotaz Begum 5,000
58 30/12/2014 Lutfur Rahman 2,000
59 30/12/2014 Mehrajul Islam Bokul Syed 3,000
60 30/12/2014 CLR Maium Miah 2,500
61 Jan/2015 Limehouse.com (10,8,7) 25,000
62 02/01/2015 CLR Aminur Khan 2,500
63 05/01/2015 Syed Farazul Islam 2,000
64 21/01/2015 Afia Farid 1,000
65 23/01/2015 Muzirul Haque 25,000
66 26/01/2015 Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 1,000
67 30/01/2015 Muzirul Haque 8,000
68 Feb/2015 London Training Centre 5,000
69 Feb/2015 Amirul Choudhury 5,000
70 02/02/2015 Saif Uddin Moni 4,000
71 03/02/2015 Lutfur Rahman 1,000
72 04/02/2015 Zuber Ahmed 3,000
73 06/02/2015 Zuber Ahmed 3,000
74 06/02/2015 Muzirul Haque 9,000
75 06/02/2015 London Training Centre 7,000
76 06/02/2015 Anuwar Ali 10,000
77 23/02/2015 A Chowdhury 10,000
78 23/02/2015 A Chowdhury 10,000
79 27/02/2015 Amirul Choudhury 10,000
80 02/03/2015 Baig Ahmed 2,000
81 03/03/2015 Salik Zahid 5,000
82 09/03/2015 Baig Ahmed 2,000
83 09/03/2015 Amirul Choudhury 10,000
84 09/03/2015 Shamsun Noor 5,000
85 09/03/2015 Razia Salique 3,000
86 09/03/2015 Lutfur Rahman 3,000
87 09/03/2015 Saif Uddin Moni 2,000
88 09/03/2015 Suma Rahman 2,000
89 09/03/2015 Kamal Uddin Chowdhury 1,000
90 10/03/2015 Sanjid Sarni 5,000
91 10/03/2015 Saleh Abed 3,000
92 10/03/2015 Syed Ferdous Ali 3,000
93 10/03/2015 London Training Centre 5,000
94 11/03/2015 Baig Ahmed 1,000
95 11/03/2015 Masuma Sultana 2,000
96 16/03/2015 Salik Zahid 1,000
97 16/03/2015 London Training Centre 5,000
98 30/03/2015 Ashadur Rahman 10,000
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
102 16/04/2015 Lutfur Rahman 3,700
103 16/04/2015 Kamal Uddin Chowdhury 300
104 24/04/2015 Shamsun Noor 5,000
105 28/04/2015 CLR Sullik Ahmed 10,000
106 30/04/2015 CLR G Rabbani 5,000
107 30/04/2015 Rina Begum 11,000
108 30/04/2015 Jabir Miah 4,000
109 05/05/2015 CLR Sullik Ahmed 20,000
110 08/05/2015 Mazharul Alom 3,000
111 13/05/2015 Afia Farid 1,000
112 13/05/2015 Shamsun Noor 2,000
113 13/05/2015 Mehdi Hasan Choudhury (Radi) 5,000
114 13/05/2015 Ahfaz Miah 9,000
115 13/05/2015 Ahfaz Miah 1,000
116 14/05/2015 Azm Adbullah Zaki 5,000
117 14/05/2015 Masuma Sultana 5,000
118 14/05/2015 Foujiya Sultana 2,500
119 14/05/2015 M lslam 5,000
120 14/05/2015 M lslam 5,000
121 15/05/2015 Mohammed Abdul Munim 10,000
122 15/05/2015 Mamunur Rahman 500
123 18/05/2015 Tufeil Sattar 1,000
Total £749,500

Read Full Post »

This is not the most earth shattering post, but I have something of a tradition of publishing legal threats and other warnings against this blog.

Four days ago in a post about Lutfur Rahman’s latest legal developments I mentioned that he had hired eminent QC Ben Emmerson to fight his proposed judicial review against the Election Court judgment.

In the following two paragraphs I wrote this:

He has also engaged another lawyer of (a slightly different) note to help him fight the cost and freezing order: Saghir Hussain (right). He’s also a lawyer specialising in human rights and is based in Whitechapel. He’s also listed as a board member of Cage (formerly Cage Prisoners) and among his former clients was a certain Mohammed Emwazi, aka “Jihadi John”.

He represented Emwazi from 2009 and before he became one of the world’s most wanted. The full details are here. You’ll remember from the controversy earlier this year that Cage claimed that MI5’s hounding of Emwazi was a catalyst in him becoming Islamic State’s poster boy executioner.

Alongside those paragraphs I published this photograph:

Saghir HussainThat’s Saghir Hussain.

Yesterday, I received the following email from Cage:

Dear Sirs
We are writing in relation to a blog post recently uploaded to your site, the post in question can be seen here.

We note that you have used an image from our site, which contains our logo on it, without seeking permission prior to posting. Furthermore, the source of the image has not been adequately referenced, if at all. In any event, we have not and do not authorise the use of said image on your site.

We therefore request that you immediately take down the image and refrain from using our images in the future without seeking our express written permission beforehand.

We hope that this matter can be resolved amicably, without further escalation.

Kind regards

CAGE

I emailed back to ask which image they were referring. I followed this up a few minutes later with this:

Further to the below, I presume you’re referring to the image of Saghir Hussain.

If so, that’s a screen grab I took personally from a video already posted/published on YouTube. I’m not aware of any permissions I need from you for that.

If I hear no more from you, I’ll consider that the end of the matter.

Many thanks.
Ted Jeory

There was a clue to the source of the image in the URL for the photo (https://trialbyjeory.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/screen-shot-2015-07-19-at-21-58-55.png) but for Cage’s benefit, it was from this YouTube video published last year of a public event at which they had unfurled their banner.

I haven’t heard back. Perhaps they have more important things to do.

As they were busy writing to me yesterday, they were also reportedly considering defamation action against David Cameron for branding them ‘extremist’ in his speech on Monday.

Bigger fish to fry.

Read Full Post »

As has been mentioned in the comments thread to the last post on this blog, Lutfur Rahman has now lodged his application for a judicial review of the April 23 Election Court verdict.

To recap, he was found guilty on seven of nine counts in the petitioners’ case. His JR seeks to have three overturned.

These relate to the findings of bribery in respect of grants and payments to the media, the payment of canvassers, and of undue spiritual influence.

He is not challenging (and in effect accepts) the finding of false statement (S106 of the Representation of the Peoples Act) against John Biggs (an offence for which he was found personally liable), and various findings of corrupt practices and electoral fraud (fraudulent votes and false registration etc) via his agents.

He is currently banned for five years from holding office because he was found personally guilty of a corrupt practice (bribery). If he overturns this finding his ban will automatically fall to three years, that being the penalty for the other lesser offences.

His ban would then expire April 23, 2018. That would prevent him from standing for mayor that year as the close of nominations for candidates would be a few weeks earlier. However, he would be free to stand as a councillor in a by-election after that date or indeed for Parliament in May 2020.

Ifs, ifs…

As for his hopes of succeeding in the JR, I’m by no means and expert and will leave that to other people to judge or guess. The grounds for his case are outlined in this document: Grounds for JR.

A useful summary is provided on p2 of that document, here:

p2 JR

So he is arguing there are findings of fact by Commissioner Mawrey for which there was no evidential basis in law. His JR also has a human rights flavour to it.

Ben_Emmerson_at_Chatham_House_2013For this, he has hired an extremely heavyweight QC, Ben Emmerson, pictured left, (who I don’t think has much experience of local government or election law, if that matters). Emmerson is the counsel for the current and controversial Child Sex Abuse inquiry.

How much will that cost Lutfur, has been the cry in the comments section on that blog. Well, the answer to that lies in Lutfur’s other ongoing and related predicament: the outstanding cost order against him. You’ll recall that Mawrey ordered Lutfur to pay £250,000 of costs incurred during the Election Court trial. Not a penny of this Judgment Debt has yet been paid.

In court documents prepared for a recent freezing order on his assets (we’ll come to those later), it emerged that he expects his full costs of a judicial review that proceeds to a hearing will be about £160,000. Of that Ben Emmerson QC would collect about £61,000. Lutfur’s solicitors K&L Gates would earn around £55,000, while the junior counsel in the case would pocket about £34,000.

No wonder lawyers love Lutfur. One day, I’ll try and calculate how much his profession has earned from his since the day he took Labour to court in the 2010 mayoral selection process.

Saghir HussainHe has also engaged another lawyer of (a slightly different) note to help him fight the cost and freezing order: Saghir Hussain (right). He’s also a lawyer specialising in human rights and is based in Whitechapel. He’s also listed as a board member of Cage (formerly Cage Prisoners) and among his former clients was a certain Mohammed Emwazi, aka “Jihadi John”.

He represented Emwazi from 2009 and before he became one of the world’s most wanted. The full details are here. You’ll remember from the controversy earlier this year that Cage claimed that MI5’s hounding of Emwazi was a catalyst in him becoming Islamic State’s poster boy executioner.

Hussain tweeted during the Election Court trial in March that the case against Lutfur was about the Establishment wanting to crush “all uppity Muslims”.

Saghir Hussain tweet

If Lutfur wins his JR, it’s likely the Judgment Debt of £250k will be reduced from its original penalty. In addition (and a lawyer can correct me on this if I’m wrong) the petitioners would also become liable for all or some of his JR costs; I’d imagine they would be offset against the new Judgment Debt.

If he loses the JR his liability to the petitioners increases of course by any money they have to spend on the JR.

So that brings us back to the question of how he’s going to pay for it all. The petitioners lawyers say that he has yet to disclose how much has been donated to the fighting fund set up at the Water Lilly rally in April, a fund being chaired by the suspended Labour NEC member Christine Shawcroft.

There is also a running argument over the Lutfur’s property interests and these have been detailed well by Love Wapping here. Lutfur lives in a six-bedroom family home in Old Montague Street with nine other adults and one child and the petitioners argue that his outgoings towards bills in that house (owned by his father and brother) must be low.

During his time in office his register of interests disclosed he owned two investment properties bought 10 years ago. These are 30 Deal Street in Whitechapel (bought for £272k) and 3 Grace Street, a small terraced house he bought for £230k in Bromley-by-Bow. But his wife now claims she owns all of 30 Deal Street and 74 per cent of 3 Grace Street, so she argues they can’t be used to pay her husband’s debt. She also owns the neighbouring property at 5 Grace Street; Lutfur has not disclosed whether he has any interest in that.

According to Zoopla, 30 Deal Street is now worth about £572k, while 3 Grace St is estimated at about £420k.

Apparently both are rented out. Again according to Zoopla, the estimated annual rents are £26,400 (£2200 per month) and £22,992 (£1916 per month).

The petitioners’ lawyers have alleged Lutfur is trying to hide his assets and are seeking more information about any other large assets he might own. Lutfur has denied this.

It was also alleged in the Election Court that Lutfur owns a stake in the Bangla City Cash and Carry, off Brick Lane in Spitalfields. This stake is estimated at £100k. But Lutfur denies any such stake.

[As an aside, is there an argument for councillors to disclose all properties they own (both in the UK and abroad), not just in the borough in which they serve? How many own properties abroad, e.g. Dubai, I wonder.]

Two weeks ago, High Court judge Mr Justice Edis ordered Lutfur to disclose income and expenditure going back five years. He also froze assets worth £350,000 and required him to disclose tax returns going back seven years. A review of the situation will take place in the near future.

The saga continues.

Read Full Post »

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 20.27.42Shortly before Ramadan in 2008, then Lib Dem councillor Stephanie Eaton fired off a complaint to those in charge of council committees about a memo they’d sent out asking members to change their eating habits. Back in those pre-austerity halcyon days, councillors were given free snacks to help them endure the messy business of part-time democracy: biscuits, tea and coffee were served at the side of the room. It was all very civilised.

But the memo in August 2008 requested committee members to refrain from gorging on food until the breaking of the fast during the forthcoming month of Ramadan. This, the memo said, was out of respect for Muslim councillors who may be fasting.

Stephanie, who I think later regretted speaking out (for the fuss it caused nationally) but not the point of principle, said on behalf of her group at the time: “We fervently believe that the rules of any one religion should not be imposed upon others.”

Many, including Muslim councillors, applauded her. It was seen as a mistake by do-gooding non-Muslim council officers.

I think it’s fair to say that there’s no other borough in Britain that is more sensitive to observant Muslims than Tower Hamlets.

A quick glance of the calendar of council meetings, for example, shows that many have been scheduled to start earlier during this past month of Ramadan.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 21.05.05

Yet there remain those who wish to exploit whatever perceived or minor insults they can for sad political reasons. Or even create insults for the same end.

Next Wednesday, it is Mayor John Biggs’s first proper full council meeting and the list of papers for it has just been published. They include a list of tabled questions to him from councillors.

This is what Cllr Ohid Ahmed, Lutfur Rahman’s former deputy mayor and someone who fancies the main role for himself in 2018, wants to ask.

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Throughout London and elsewhere these past four weeks fasting Muslims and non-Muslims and others have shared offices without even the slightest hint of tension or friction or breakdown in “basic etiquette” as people have simply got on with their daily lives. Some have fasted, most haven’t. Some in the latter group will have politely asked their colleagues if it’s ok to eat in front of them. The replies are likely to have been ‘Of course! Thanks for asking.’

Indeed, this has undoubtedly been the case in Mulberry Place itself.

AMOhid-AhmedBut there will always be those wanting to whip up or fabricate friction. I suppose someone or some people must have moaned to Ohid for him to learn about this meeting, but his language – is the stuff of parody.

“I believe morning breakfast [what other breakfast is there?] was offered…with much pomp and grandeur [what?? was it served by Royal butlers??] to the behest [I think he’s picked the wrong word here] of those who were observing their faith and those who felt left out and demotivated and somewhat belittled by the event taking place when they are obligated to fast.”

It’s the kind of stuff you see in exaggerated whip-lash claims. Or OTT constructive dismissal cases.

So what was this event that “belittled” people anyway? Well, it was work. More than 1,000 employees were asked to turn up to work.

As it has been explains to me, it was the Senior Management Development Conference. Lutfur used to hold it for fewer people in Mile End but this year Biggs and the council top team switched the venue to the Troxy and extended the invitation to 1,000 staff members, some 20 per cent of the workforce. It was aimed at informing the staff about developments at the council and listening to their feedback.

It lasted from morning until late afternoon, apparently and simple food was served for those who wanted or needed it. Sandwiches during the breaks/lunch, and tea, coffee, orange juice, biscuits and other snacks on arrival.

I was told speeches from Sir Ken Knight, the chief Commissioner, and John Biggs went down well. The latter was apparently cheered when he said there would be no more chauffeured mayoral car.

And I was also told (but I haven’t checked) that there was also an 80 per cent satisfaction rate from a survey at the end of the meeting.

Earlier this week, I was at the Arbour Youth Centre for an Iftar hosted by the committee there and by St Dunstan’s Church in Stepney. Many of the congregation of that church, as well as the rector, the assistant priest and the wardens, attended having themselves fasted throughout the day so they could share the breaking of the fast with their friends in Stepney’s Muslim community. (At one point John Biggs turned up to say hello before moving on to another Iftar elsewhere).

It was harmonious, sharing, respectful and friendly. I wish Ohid had been there. I suspect many in the Muslim community will find his cheap attempt at entrenched identity politics embarrassing.

In the meantime, below are the other questions for next Wednesday’s meeting. They are the usual mix of sycophantic, silly and sensible. I’ll let you decide which is which.

TO RECEIVE WRITTEN QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL

And Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim readers. Don’t hoot your horns too wildly tomorrow…but then again why not!

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This article originally appeared yesterday on Open Democracy under the headline ‘The neo-colonial plot to halt Bengalis in Tower Hamlets’. I’m reproducing it here via its Creative Commons Licence.

It is written by Ansar Ahmed Ullah, described on Open Democracy as “a community activist who has lived and worked in the East End of London since the 1980s. He has worked as a youth, social and community worker and has been an active anti-racist campaigner. He is currently involved with the Nirmul Committee, a campaign group set up to challenge the rise of religious fundamentalism.” As a disclaimer, he is also my brother-in-law.

Ansar Ahmed Ullah

Ansar Ahmed Ullah

Following and prior to the recent 12 June Tower Hamlets mayoral election results, it seems some on the liberal and white left are asserting that racism and Islamophobia were at play. But such well-wishers are in fact colluding, appeasing, empowering and encouraging the most right wing, reactionary and corrupt fundamentalist elements of the Bengali/Muslim community in Tower Hamlets. It seems that there is a group of white leftists, trade unionists & Christian faith leaders who would prefer to keep the Bengali community insular, ghettoized and away from the mainstream. They ignore the history of the Bengalis who came to Tower Hamlets as economic migrants during 1950s and 1960s to better their lives and those of their children, and overlook the history of that community’s stand against ghettoization by the GLC in the 1970s.

These self-appointed saviours talk as though the Bengali community is unable to resist racism. They forget how, following Bengali factory worker Altab Ali’s murder in 1978, it was the Bengali community that fought the racists off the streets of the East End  physically almost on a daily basis, dealt with the unannounced arrivals of the National Front and  Combat 18, and later the BNP – without the protection of 3,000 police.

altabalimetpoliceappealFor the Brick Lane Bengali community, who were under constant attack from the racists as early as 1975 – 1976, the murder of Altab Ali in 1978 was a turning point, especially of its youth. It led to their mobilising and politicisation. They began to organise youth groups, community and campaigning groups, linked up with other anti-racist movements and groups. The year 1978 saw the emergence of second-generation Bengali community activists who entered mainstream politics in the 1980s to bring about meaningful changes to their lives.

Defenders of Tower Hamlets First ignore the fact that the Bengali community elected Rushanara Ali to represent them at the House of Commons. They also ignore the large number of Labour councillors (including many Tower Hamlets First councillors who were once Labour councillors). Today Tower Hamlets Council can boast the largest number of elected Bengali councillors in any one borough with a total of 25 Bengali councillors. This didn’t happen overnight.

The community had to struggle within a political process for a long 20/30 years to reach this stage. The Bengali community in the 1980s forged alliances between the first and second generation Bengalis. The second generation’s strength was consolidated in the formation of Federation Bangladeshi Youth Organisations (FBYO) in 1980, a national umbrella body that spearheaded campaigns for better housing, health and education and stood up against institutional racism. The Federation was the first truly national campaigning organisation that made a public representation of Bengali interests and spoke for Bengalis across the borough and nationally. At the same time Bengalis also built alliances with activists outside the Bengali community, such as other ‘Asians’ from Hackney, Newham, Camden, Southall & Bradford, and those from the white majority community of the East End.

As a matter of fact Bengali political activism dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. Evidence of the early activism of Bengalis in London can be seen in the formation of organisations such as the Society for the Protection of Asian Sailors in 1857 and the Indian Seamen’s Welfare League in 1943. The Bangladesh Welfare Association was formed in the 1950s, the largest community organisation with a membership of over 40,000. It was activists of the Bangladesh Welfare Association who went on to establish the historic Brick Lane Mosque in 1976. The East London Mosque was built by a very different group of people with outside finance.

As Bengali community activism grew, many activists took prominent roles in community politics. Brick Lane became the center of Bengali activism. Today Brick Lane has become merely a global icon, a branding concept as in ‘Banglatown’ and ‘the curry capital of Europe’.

Supporters of deposed mayor Lufur Rahman and his allies talk about Islamophobia but intentionally or conveniently ignore Islamism, working with Islamists who include those responsible for war crimes and other violence in Bangladesh. Thus these white activists and men of peace are colluding with the most extreme reactionary elements, inspired by fascism and far-right ideology, rehabilitating them and giving them legitimacy.

One such war criminal, who was recently found guilty by a Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal, got a clean slate by a Christian activist with utter disregard for Bangladesh’s judiciary. He called him a man of integrity! A man found guilty of the killings of Bengali intellectuals by aiding the Pakistani military in setting up killing squads. Another Christian faith leader even posed the question ‘What is Islamism?'(!) Far from challenging or distancing themselves from the fundamentalists they are colluding in the name of ‘engaging with neighbours’, for a quick gain of access to large ethnic audiences.

To highlight this point let’s revisit the general election that took place in 2005, when the local Islamists switched sides from the Labour Party and aligned themselves with George Galloway’s Respect Party which came out of the Stop the War coalition, a front organisation of the SWP. The SWP/Stop the War Coalition built up relationships with Islamists during the anti-Afghanistan/Iraq war demonstrations. Galloway used the religious sentiments of the local Bengali Muslim community in the East End of London for his own personal political gain. In his quest to challenge New Labour at the general election, he went into an un-holy alliance with the SWP and local fundamentalists, who went against their fellow Bengali Muslim candidates.

_78799875_shocks_2005_oona-king_george-gallowayDuring the election campaign the sitting MP for Bow & Bethnal Green at the time, Oona King, felt the justified anger of the electorate because of her support for the war in Iraq. Talking to a journalist she said there were other, less legitimate reasons for her unpopularity, too. “When you graft racial stereotypes and bigotry and religious stereotypes on top of everything else…We have a huge amount of Islamophobia in this country, and possibly as a response to that we have a huge amount of anti-Semitism.” Bizarre rumours kept surfacing during the campaign that she wanted to ban halal meat. “And this was on top of the usual, exaggerated Jewish conspiracy theories. A similar thing happened in 2001, when there were rumours spread that I was funded by Mossad…”

The white liberal left leadership has refrained from condemning the Islamists. These whites are themselves showing a colonial mentality and playing a dangerous game of divide and rule by fostering divisions within the community by supporting one section against the other. The community can do without these self-appointed spokespersons for the Bengali community. The 81,000 Tower Hamlets Bengalis can and have looked after themselves without the patronising intervention of white advocates.

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In 2007, a balding George Galloway and a few other bald men fought over the comb that was the imploding Respect/SWP “the Unity coalition” party. Due to a spat with the SWP about who owned the rights to the precious Respect name, Galloway’s main rump called themselves Respect Renewal. Separately, a gang of four councillors, largely cheesed off with the way their group leader Abjol Miah was running the show, split off to form a new group called Respect (Independent).

Eight years later and history is (kinda) repeating, albeit with some different faces and the musical chairs moving in different directions.

Back then the gang of four comprised Oli Rahman, Lutfa Begum, her daughter Rania Khan and Ahmed Hussain. Not long afterwards, Ahmed joined the Tories, where he is still well regarded, while the other three were bought off/recruited by Labour.

This morning the group that used to be called Tower Hamlets First and which is now known as Independents suffered its first split. Abjol Miah, upset at not retaining his paid position as a member of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (instead, and incredibly, the job of scrutinising council business falls to grants king Maium Miah and the Prince of Narcissism Mahbub Alam), texted a couple of colleagues and then emailed John Williams, the council’s head of democratic services, to say he was quitting the group.

His move took some by surprise, not because he was defecting but because he was doing it alone. In the background there had been discussions about a few of them forming a new group. These talks had been taking place not just in the wake of Rabina Khan’s defeat, but also before it. What the disgruntled councillors had in common was a shared frustration at the way Lutfur Rahman (yes, him) was still effectively controlling things.

Last week, according to an insider, the Deposed Dear Leader met his former THF councillors to declare that Rabina would remain his candidate for mayor in 2018. Apparently his word was final, just as it had been when he selected her after his Election Court humiliation in April. No discussion, nada.

This, I’m told, was too much to stomach for some. To them, he was the cause of their current predicament – so how dare he not suggest an open and transparent selection process (ie a vote).

Lady Jane GreySo a number of them set about planning a split. I’m told that those planning to do so are the Independents’ group leader, Oli Rahman (the six day Acting Mayor and the Lady Jane Grey of Tower Hamlets politics); Shahed Ali; ex-deputy mayor Ohid Ahmed; Shafiqul Haque; and Mohammed Mufti Miah.

The first four were all Labour councillors. Whether Abjol would join them to make a group of six is not clear. bigpic

Were this to happen, their initial task would be to choose a name: Independents First? Independent (Independent)? Independent Renewal? Choices on the back of a postcard please.

More substantially (and I use that word advisedly), there would also be implications for the system of proportionality. The main Independents group would drop to 11 in number, while the new gang would have possibly six members. The former would lose entitlement to some committee positions, while the latter would gain some.

For the most part, and I think Abjol is the exception here, the possible defectors would like to return to Labour. Were that to happen, there would be so many dead bodies left in Labour the calls for a Tower Hamlets cemetery would become irresistible.

That said, it’s clear Lutfur is planning a long term comeback and that Rabina is working hard on strengthening her grassroots support. Labour is likely to have a fight on its hands in 2018, and by 2022 Lutfur will be eligible to stand as mayor again (in fact he could try for a vacated councillor position in 2019…if he’s not bankrupted by court costs, of course).

John Biggs at Labour iftarSo the aim of the game for John Biggs (and at an iftar for the Labour group on Tuesday night, pictured left, he made clear he’d want to stand again, although some tell me they’d like to see Sirajul Islam given a chance) must be to secure re-election, as well as running a decent council.

His hand is strengthened by weakening those of his opponents. Oli et al, believe it or not, do carry some votes. Deals that fall short of re-admittance to Labour can always be made.

Murky, but that’s politics I suppose.

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In his victory speech on June 12, John Biggs said he’d been elected as a Labour mayor, that he’d run the council as a Labour mayor, but he hinted strongly he’d also acknowledge the multicoloured coalition of voters who put him there. Very senior allies of his said that night that some kind of role would have to be found, for example, for Peter Golds. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the role of Speaker seemed to be the perfect fit but in the ensuing days the offer did not come about. Instead, the councillor who did more than any other elected member to bring down Lutfur Rahman has been made a senior member of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee with a special responsibility for probity and governance. I’m sure he’ll relish it and perhaps end up as Speaker next year… As it happens tonight’s full council meeting – the first with Biggs as mayor – was chaired by Cllr Moahmmed Adbul Mukit, or ‘MBE’ as he’s known among his colleagues – on account of his MBE of course. It’s his second successive term, as it is for his deputy Rajib Ahmed. I wasn’t there for the meeting but by all accounts it was a most sensible affair. Biggs was apparently cheered by Tory and Labour supporters alike in the public gallery when he announced he would be the ‘speaking variety of mayor’.

Missing from the proceedings was Rabina Khan. I don’t know why and I’m sure she has a good reason so please don’t judge. Ohid Ahmed was also missing (for the start), as was Mahbub Alam, who was posing by the Eiffel Tower earlier today according to his narcissistic Twitter feed. Tonight’s full council was to ratify the various appointments to cabinet and other committees. A Labour press release today said this:

Mayor John Biggs has announced his Cabinet. This leadership team draws on the knowledge, experience and dedication of Labour councillors in Tower Hamlets.

One of the key objectives of this Cabinet is to do away with the secrecy and opaque nature of decision making that plagued the previous administration.

Decisions will be taken transparently and openly, with cabinet meetings held around the borough; council meetings will no longer see the mayor sitting in silence; and councillors will be fully involved in the decision making process, ensuring that local ward knowledge is always fed into the process.

Mayor: John Biggs

Cllr Rachael Saunders: Deputy Mayor for Education & Children’s Services & the Third Sector

Cllr Shiria Khatun: Deputy Mayor for Community Affairs

Cllr Sirajul Islam: Statutory Deputy Mayor

Cllr Rachel Blake: Cabinet Member for Strategic Development

Cllr Joshua Peck: Cabinet Member for Work & Economic Growth

Cllr Amy Whitelock Gibbs: Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Services

Cllr Asma Begum: Cabinet Member for Culture

Cllr Ayas Miah: Cabinet Member for Environment

Cllr David Edgar: Cabinet Member for Resources

With forthcoming decisions such as the South Quay Masterplan, Rich Mix litigation and the upcoming report on the Medium Term Financial Plan, the Mayor and Cabinet will be diving straight in to the new culture of transparent and fair decision making.

And in early changes, the Mayor has got rid of the leased car used by his predecessor, agreed that the long-delayed report into the sale of poplar Town Hall be released to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, as required by a Council resolution over a year ago, and instructed that there be a long-delayed settlement with the Rich Mix Centre in Bethnal Green and that legal action pursued under the previous Mayor whose effect would have threatened the existence of the centre be ended.

Mayor John Biggs commented: “I’m very pleased to announce the Cabinet and I know we will all do our utmost to serve the residents of Tower Hamlets. I am incredibly proud to serve all people of this borough, but this is no time for complacency: whilst I have already made some changes such as scrapping the mayoral car, we are  fully focussed on the big challenges ahead. As there was a period of time with no mayor, there was a pause in decision making.

“We must act now in an efficient and fair manner to sort out these decisions for the benefit of residents. I am beginning to clear the backlog of decisions, and to reverse some actions of my predecessor which were in my view unhelpful for the Borough. I have already held one mayor’s surgery to listen to residents’ issues and there will be many more of these meetings. And I have pledged a regimen of greater transparency and openness.

“It is vitally important that we now press on: serving the residents of Tower Hamlets fairly, transparently and efficiently.”

The other major appointment is Marc Francis as chair of the development and strategic development committee. With his wife Rachel Blake as cabinet member for housing, they’re going to have some pretty solid Chinese Walls at home. In other developments, two senior council officers have also been recruited. Zena Cooke, formerly of Maidstone Borough Council, will become corporate director for resources on August 1. And Melanie Clay, from Central Bedfordshire Council, will become the new corporate director for law, probity and governance on September 17. Meic Sullivan Gould will have to find another way of financing a new car. An advert for a new chief executive is also due to be published this week. Slowly but surely, the directions laid out by the Government to the Commissioners and council are being ticked off. They could well be unemployed by the end of the year.. And speaking of the unemployed, there are now a few redundant ex-Tower Hamlets First councillors in need of work. Actually, we really shouldn’t call them THF councillors because that party has been dissolved and they’ve officially formed an Independent group on the council. But what’s this email which dropped at into my Inbox at 9.35pm tonight? IMG_0819   Spot the subconscious mistake…? Anyway, here’s the substance:

#Part-time Labour Mayor for Tower Hamlets during second wave of Tory cuts

John Biggs, the newly elected Labour mayor of Tower Hamlets, will be continuing his position as London Assembly Member, whilst the Conservative government threatens more cuts to social security.

Despite gimmickry of pay cut and spin, the fact is that John Biggs will still be taking home nearly £85,000 from combined salary despite being a part time Mayor for the people of Tower Hamlets.

Tower Hamlets, one of the poorest areas in London, is at high risk of being hit the hardest with extended cuts to public services, of which the survival of many rely upon.

The Independent Group, formerly Tower Hamlets First, revived services such as; Education Maintenance Allowance, which gives expenses to school leavers to support them through college; introduced the London Living Wage, which sees that employees in Tower Hamlets are given fair wages; and reduced child poverty by more than 15% since 2010.

Concerned for the future of Tower Hamlets under a Labour mayor, the Independent Group has made a pledge to hold John Biggs to account, on any decisions that may threaten the current services that protect the vulnerable and support the prosperity of the public.

Tower Hamlets was ranked first last year by Grant Thornton on its high growth index, and is also one of the top performing London authorities for the delivery of affordable homes, with 3980 affordable homes delivered and 1262 affordable/social rented homes for families delivered.

Cllr Oli Rahman, Leader of Independent Group, said:  “If John Biggs is committed to keeping the borough united, as he has said before, he needs to acknowledge the devastating effects that the Tory cuts can and will make to the poorest and most vulnerable members of our community, and make it his priority to ensure that our residents can live, learn and work with dignity.”

Cllr Rabina Khan, Independent runner up in the Mayoral election, said: “We will continue to fight for the people of Tower Hamlets, and we will do that by holding John Biggs and his Labour cabinet to account. We are a local grassroots political movement and our focus is very much on the welfare of the community, not on building our careers in Westminster politics.” “Despite operating under the full brunt of Tory cuts, we will be leaving behind a legacy of services, the fate of which, lies in the hands of John Biggs and his Labour cabinet.”

Notes to Editor:

1. Cllr Rabina Khan, Independent candidate in June 2015 against Labour’s John Biggs secured 26,384 votes, against the backdrop of a most vicious and negative right wing campaignhttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Rabina-KHAN-for-MAYOR/792583084189426

2.Cllr Oli Rahman, preformed Acting Mayoral duties before election, is one of the youngest political Group Leaders in the United Kingdom – https://twitter.com/cllroliurrahman

When I used the word ‘substance’ above, I was being generous.

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