A key supporter of Tower Hamlets’ extremist-linked mayor, Lutfur Rahman, today pleaded guilty to three counts of dishonestly claiming housing and council tax benefits – the second time she has been convicted of such offences.
Councillor Shelina Akhtar failed to turn up in court at the start of the case today, claiming that she was unwell and unfit to stand trial, but the judge dismissed her claim and issued a warrant for her arrest. When she finally appeared this afternoon, Judge Platt told her: “I make you no promises today. This is the second time you have committed fraud against the state regarding benefits to which you are not entitled. The court needs to know more before deciding on the appropriate sentence.” Akhtar cheated the taxpayer of just over £1100 in benefits. She will be sentenced next month.
The prosecutor, Michelle Fawcett, said: “She is a local councillor and the case, therefore, was more serious. This defendant has previous convictions for identical matters.”
In 2010 Akhtar, of Blackwall Way, was handed 100 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £250 costs after being found guilty of dishonestly claiming jobseeker’s allowance, housing benefit and council tax benefit during a case at Thames Magistrates’ Court.
Akhtar is one of eight Tower Hamlets councillors who were expelled from the Labour Party after deciding to support Lutfur, who was sacked as Labour’s candidate for mayor for his close links to an extremist Muslim group, the Islamic Forum of Europe. Lutfur took the Telegraph to the Press Complaints Commission – and lost – after we described Akhtar as a “Lutfur Rahman councillor.” He tried to claim that she was not connected to him. (He has also tried to claim that he is not linked to extremism – he lost that complaint, too.)
Interestingly, Ted Jeory has discovered that even after her first conviction and her arrest on this second set of charges, Akhtar claims in her official council engagement log to have attended 34 hours of “group meetings” of the Rahman-supporters and 38 hours of “mayoral engagements” with Mr Extremist Links himself.