Lutfur Rahman: undeclared donations, criminal offences?

The selection of Lutfur Rahman as Labour candidate for mayor of Tower Hamlets is proving controversial

A complaint has been made to the Labour Party alleging massive irregularities, multiple breaches of party rules and at least one possible criminal offence in the selection of the fundamentalist-linked politician, Lutfur Rahman, as Labour’s candidate for directly-elected mayor of Tower Hamlets.

As we reported earlier this month, Mr Rahman has personally signed up entire families as sham “paper” members of the Labour Party to act as his personal “vote bank.” We found and filmed a number of these members, some of whom told us that they do not even support the party. Some of these members say that Mr Rahman also paid their subscriptions. Further sham addresses have been identified.

It has also emerged that a number – potentially dozens – of those who voted in the selection contest do not in fact live in Tower Hamlets and were thus not eligible to vote. One of Mr Rahman’s key supporters and organisers claims to be living in a single room in a shared house in Tower Hamlets. He is in fact married and lives with his wife in a suburban house in another borough.

A list compiled by other candidates in the contest, from their canvassing and door-knocking during the campaign, gives nearly 200 names of people who are on the Labour Party membership list – but who do not exist, do not live at the address they give, or were away, mostly in Bangladesh, on polling day. Some of the addresses given are commercial premises where nobody lives. Several of the names match people whom we have identified as Mr Rahman’s sham “paper” members. Not all of these people will necessarily have voted, or have voted for Mr Rahman – but since the turnout was 72 per cent, it is likely that many of them will.

The complaint alleges that Mr Rahman’s campaign is in massive breach of Labour’s rules for the selection contest, which set a cap for each candidate on “all cash expenditure, resources and donations in kind” of £1 per Tower Hamlets Labour Party member – or £1,217.

It alleges that Mr Rahman received funding, or support in kind, far greater than £1,217. His election leaflets, unlike those of the other candidates, were full-colour, glossy, professionally-printed – and were sent through the post to members, the complaint says. Mr Rahman also produced a number of other glossy, full-colour leaflets, including one announcing that he had been shortlisted. He had a sophisticated, professionally-designed website. A fleet of cars was operated to take his supporters to the poll, it is alleged.

Mr Rahman was three times kept off the shortlist by the Labour Party amid deep concerns about his links with Islamic fundamentalism, documented repeatedly on this blog, and with wealthy local businessmen. He only got on to the list after taking legal action. He used a solicitor, Makbool Javaid, who has often spoken at rallies of the now-banned pro-terrorist group, al Muhajiroun.

Mr Rahman’s side of the legal action, which cost the parties a total of £42,000, was funded by one of those wealthy businessmen, a Brick Lane restaurateur, Shiraj Haque – though he did get most of his money back from the Labour Party after he won the case. Mr Haque has openly stated that he paid Lutfur’s legal bills to two senior Tower Hamlets Labour Party elected representatives; they have in turn spoken to this blog.

Lutfur’s campaign leaflets and website are identical in design to those produced by the recent campaign to establish the office of directly-elected mayor. Mr Haque admits to me bankrolling the whole directly-elected mayor campaign but claims its leaflets’ similarity to Lutfur’s is purely a coincidence.

A celebration party for Lutfur was held at one of Mr Haque’s restaurants after the victory, at which leading local Islamic fundamentalists congratulated the candidate. Mr Haque organised a larger party for Lutfur at a ballroom on the Commercial Road this week.

Lutfur Rahman is a “regulated donee” under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act and is required by law to report all donations worth over £1,500, in cash or in kind (or multiple donations from a single source totalling more than £1,500) within 30 days of accepting them. All the donations and alleged donations described above are reportable. However, the Electoral Commission has received no reports of donations from Lutfur. Failure to report donations is a criminal offence.

If Lutfur Rahman is elected mayor in October – and the Labour label makes it a likelihood – he will have effectively sole and complete control of Tower Hamlets council’s £1 billion budget.

Mr Rahman failed to respond to repeated text and telephone messages.

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