One of the most prominent supporters of Tower Hamlets’ extremist-backed mayor, Lutfur Rahman, has been charged with fraud.
Councillor Shelina Akhtar (also spelt Shelina Aktar) appears in court next month. Her arrest, last year, was first reported by this blog.
Akhtar is one of eight councillors who were thrown out of the Labour Party after backing Lutfur – himself barred by Labour for his close links with the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE).
Akhtar – whose day job, hilariously, is as a part-time “youth and enrichment worker” – is accused of part-time self-enrichment. She is charged with one count of “false representation” and three counts of failing to notify a change of circumstances which would have affected her entitlement to benefit.
She remains a member of Tower Hamlets council at the time of writing and continues to draw another much-needed benefit entitlement – her £200-a-week councillor’s attendance allowance.
In less than six months, three of Lutfur’s tiny band have been the subjects of police investigations. The second is Shiraj Haque, Lutfur’s chief business backer who is currently under investigation for a massive alleged scam involving selling fraudulent wine in his restaurant empire. The third is Lutfur himself – who has been accused of failing to declare substantial donations from Mr Haque, a criminal offence under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act. (We have been asked to point out Lutfur was later sent a police letter saying that there was “no case to answer.” However, the complainant, Cllr Peter Golds, insists that the police never investigated the matter seriously. See PCC adjudication here.)
And that’s not including Cllr Alibor Choudhury, the former employee of an IFE front organisation who Lutfur has, quite incredibly, put in charge of the council’s budget. Alibor has a deeply unsavoury past and a record of encounters with the police. In 2006, he was charged with violent disorder in connection with a gang attack. The case was stayed at the committal stage after Alibor claimed he had been the subject of an “abuse of process.” Hmm… I’ll tell you a bit more about Alibor’s dodgy back-story when I get a moment.
Nor does it include Zamal Uddin, a convicted sex attacker for whom Lutfur gave a character reference in court (the mayor claims that he didn’t know what crime Uddin had pled guilty to, an explanation that simply beggars belief.)
I predicted when Lutfur won the election that his mayoralty would become a “slow-motion car crash.” It’s crashing rather quicker than that. Lutfur’s curious attraction for the criminal – and allegedly criminal – is yet another reason why Labour must be deeply relieved that it did not give way to some people’s siren calls to readmit him.
Since this blog was first posted Mr Rahman has asked us to report that the police investigation into the declaration of donations has been concluded, finding there was no case to answer.