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Archive for February 19th, 2014

Mayor Lutfur Rahman has form when it comes to supplying judges with court references for convicted criminals.

In 2011, as reported here, he wrote a lovely letter on behalf of minicab driver Zamal Uddin who was awaiting sentence for molesting a female passenger in Hoxton. Unusually, in that instance, the mayor wrote to me to explain himself.

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He said he’d been duped by Uddin’s family, that he thought he was being convicted of driving without a licence. Well, I guess we’re all human and we all make mistakes, even a fully qualified lawyer whose job is to pay attention to such detail.

It’s happened again, although this time I’m pretty sure Lutfur knew what he was doing.

Whenever I’m asked to give lectures about Tower Hamlets, I always cite this story: of how Mahee Jalil/Mohammed Ferdhaus, the boss and founder of Channel S television was kidnapped outside his Walthamstow office, bundled into the boot of a car, driven across London and hanged from the ceiling by his ankles while being tortured with scolding water poured over his testicles. He was then released by a sympathetic kidnapper and dumped by the side of the North Circular.

Of course, Mahee Jalil isn’t any ordinary businessman. He’s a crook. In 2008, he was convicted of a car insurance fraud and served time in jail.

It was after he reemerged from prison that he was given a Kray style treatment by an angry husband. This experience apparently made him see the light.

But he remains a powerful figure. He founded Channel S and although he still has (or had until recently) his own show, his name no longer appears on any legal documents connected to the station. This is convenient. Channel S was put under new management shortly before Ofcom’s latest ruling against it (more here).

Lutfur’s people, and Labour, are desperate to appear on Channel S. It’s the one media outlet that matters. This is why Lutfur hired at the public’s expense its reporter Mohammed Jubair to work as his media adviser (while still working for the station!); it’s why Tower Hamlets council gives it £10,000 a year for an annual awards show that is anything but One Tower Hamlets.

In short, the cowboy TV channel founded by crooked Mahee has been extremely friendly to Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

So the least Lutfur could do by way of thanks (and undoubtedly from some genuinely held conviction Mahee had changed his ways) was to try and help get his latest sentence minimised, this time for money-laundering some £500,000 from another car insurance scam. This money laundering took place while Mahee was on bail awaiting his previous sentence. He must have been so contrite.

I’ve not yet seen Lutfur’s full reference letter and no one from the council (which says it wants to tackle crime) wanted to comment yesterday.

However, Peter Golds has written to the council’s head of paid service Steve Halsey demanding a full investigation into the town hall’s links with Channel S. I can’t help thinking the council is bringing itself into disrepute.

Here’s the piece I wrote for the Express yesterday.

The photo is taken from Mahee’s last interview with Lutfur Rahman, which was uploaded on to YouTube in November last year, when the mayor was fully aware of Mahee’s latest predicament. (I’m going to moderate comments on this thread to ensure there is no reference to any other ongoing legal proceedings).

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ONE of Britain’s most controversial mayors provided a glowing court reference yesterday to a convicted insurance fraudster who was then sentenced to three years in jail for money laundering.

Lutfur Rahman, the directly elected mayor of Tower Hamlets Council in east London, praised Mohammed Ferdhaus’s “instrumental role” in promoting Britain’s Bangladeshi community just minutes before he was sent to prison for the second time in six years.

Mr Rahman’s letter of praise made reference to Ferdhaus’s work with Channel S, an influential satellite TV station for British Bangladeshis and which has been warned by Ofcom for broadcasting biased coverage of the mayor’s policies.

Ferdhaus is the channel’s founder and was until recently a regular presenter.

He interviewed Mr Rahman, an independent who was expelled from Labour in 2010, on the channel as recently as last November.

Despite a previous jail sentence for insurance fraud, Ferdhaus has been named as one of the most powerful Bangladeshis in Britain.

However, a judge at Southwark Crown Court yesterday said another custodial sentence was the only possible outcome for his latest crime, laundering the money from a £1.9million crash for cash insurance scam.

Ferdhaus, 40, who is also known as Mahee Jalil, grinned as his sentence was read out and waved at supporters in the public gallery, saying “thank you” and “see you  soon”.

He helped flush funds generated by a team of fraudsters led by his brother, Mohammed Samsul Haque, 26.

Haque, together with five other men, had already been sentenced to a total of more than 12 years in prison.

More than 120 bogus insurance claims for luxury motors including Mercedes, Jaguars and BMWs were engineered by Haque through his company, Motor Alliance.

Cars were trashed at crash for cash drinking parties at Haque’s garage in Tottenham, north London, the court heard.

The gang rammed the vehicles into each other blocking out the noise with blaring music, before finishing the job with baseball bats.

Between November 2005 and October 2008, a series of London-based accident management firms were used as a front to hide their activities.

They also persuaded other drivers to provide their licence details to back up the insurance claims in return for small amounts of cash.

The firm raked in around £1.17million in profits from the scam, which was unearthed after police raided Motor Alliance and found 64 files relating to insurance claims in the boot of a silver Mercedes.

Ferdhaus had a “background” role in the firm and was involved in the scam between July 19, 2006 and October 31, 2008.

The media mogul tried to pin the blame on his innocent middle brother, Abdul, and maintained his innocence on the day he was due to stand trial in July last year.

He was jailed for 18 months in 2008 for conspiracy to defraud in respect of an almost identical earlier insurance scam between 2002 and 2003.

The businessman was on bail awaiting trial at the time he became embroiled in the later fraud.

Ferdhaus had suffered post traumatic stress disorder after being kidnapped at gunpoint outside his TV station offices in Walthamstow, east London and issued with a £250,000 ransom demand.

When he refused to pay his assailants they tortured him, hanging him upside down and pouring boiling water on his head, before threatening to rape his daughter.

He continues to endure psychological difficulties as a result of the ordeal in May 2011, shortly after he returned from a pilgrimage to Mecca, the court heard.

But sentencing, Judge Anthony Pitts said: “The proceeds of the fraud Motor Alliance received was something a little over £1m.

“Payments from the proceeds of the fraud were put into your account or accounts controlled by you.

“The proceeds of the fraud received by you was £500,000.

“It wasn’t proceeds which you suspected might be proceeds of fraud but of course which you knew were the proceeds of fraud.

“You are a highly intelligent man, there is no doubt about that and I have read a lot of good things about you.

“Of course you have suffered post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety and depression.

“But money laundering is a serious offence.

“You were close to the source of the fraud and you dishonestly handled £500,000.

“This offending by you is so serious that even given the lapse in time, largely for which you are responsible, an immediate custodial sentence of some length must be passed.”

Shaven headed and wearing a black jacket, grey sweater and jeans Ferdhaus bit his nails and held his head in his hands as he sat in the glass-enclosed dock during the hearing.

But he appeared cheerful as the sentence was passed, thanking the judge and giving a thumbs up to supporters in the packed public gallery.

He grinned and waved, telling them “thank you” and “see you soon” as he was led down to the cells.

Ferdhaus was also banned from being a director for 10 years.

Mark Milliken-Smith QC, defending Ferdhaus, said of his kidnapping: “The fact that he suffered post traumatic stress disorder is hardly surprising given the physical and mental ordeal he was subjected to.

“What happened to him in May 2011 was a very, very significant and life changing experience.

“This is a changed man.”

Ferdhaus received a glowing references, including the one from Mr Rahman, who described him as playing an “instrumental role” in promoting the Bangladeshi community through Channel S.

He has a “real desire to help others” and is a keen philanthropist in particular supporting those affected by natural disasters, the court heard.

“He has a selflessness which one doesn’t naturally associate with an individual concerned with personal greed,” Mr Milliken-Smith added.

Ferdhaus, from Brentwood, Essex, admitted possessing criminal property.

Samsul Haque, of Maida Vale, west London, was given five years in October 2011 after he admitted conspiracy to defraud between November 13, 2005 and October 16, 2008.

His lieutenant Rosul Yusuf, 33, was jailed for four years, while Shalim Miah, 29, received two years behind bars and Halimur Rashid, 28, was jailed for 15 months.

Nazruislam Muhammad Rahman, 32, and Noveed Akhtar, 40, both of whom were named in bogus claims made by Haque’s gang were given 12 month sentences suspended for 12 months.

Paul Ellis, 37, who pleaded guilty to providing six driving licences to Haque was given a six-month sentence suspended for 12 months.

Ellis and Rahman were ordered to carry out 100 and 140 hours of unpaid work respectively.

Today, Councillor Peter Golds, the leader of the Tory opposition in Tower Hamlets called for a council investigation into the town hall’s links with Channel S.

The council and the mayor declined to comment.

There is no suggestion that Lutfur Rahman had any involvement in the insuranceor money laundering scam.

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I don’t quite get what your alternative was: to cancel the 4,000 homes?

 

—(By way of explanation, the above was my attempt to leave a comment on Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s blog but of course he doesn’t like engaging in public discussion so the comments function has been disabled. I seem therefore to have “reblogged” his post onto my blog, so please leave your comments for him below.)

Mayor Lutfur Rahman

John Biggs is desperate to get elected. So desperate that he’ll knock down any of the borough’s achievements despite the national and international recognition we’ve gained.

In the last 3 years Tower Hamlets has received £50m in “New Homes Bonus” cash from the government- more than any other local authority- and topped every league table for house building. But Biggs is insulting the intelligence of local people by claiming we’ve only built 15 homes – not 4000.

That’s a big difference so how does he come to this figure? Simple, he moves the goalposts and applies a different definition of “housebuilding” to Tower Hamlets than that used by the whole of the rest of the country. He doesn’t attack Newham, who boast about building 2,000 new homes by the same measure we use, or even Mayor Boris Johnson who has aspirations to build 150,000 affordable homes across London.

But I…

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