The Metropolitan Police today stated that there was “no credible evidence” in files about Lutfur Rahman’s Tower Hamlets Council supplied by the BBC’s Panorama programme “to suspect that fraud or any other offence has been committed at this stage. Therefore the MPS will not be investigating at this point in time.”
Rahman, the extremist-linked mayor of Tower Hamlets, and his council have understandably been crowing about this statement today. The statement “is to be welcomed,” the council said. Rahman tweeted that there was “no evidence” of fraud. Rahman-friendly media outlets such as The Guardian newspaper have been carrying the statement prominently.
There’s only one problem – it’s not true. There is a criminal investigation. And the BBC files do form part of it.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed to me tonight that Tower Hamlets CID is investigating alleged fraud at the council involving a grant to an organisation called the Brady Youth Forum. A member of the mayor’s staff is involved in the alleged fraud, I separately understand. The Met said the investigation was at “an early stage”.
I understand that detailed evidence on this specific allegation did form part of the dossier that Panorama’s reporter, John Ware, passed to the DCLG and which was then passed to the Met. The material supplied by Ware includes evidence implicating one of the mayor’s staff in an operation where cheques for public money were sent to what appeared to be a bogus address.
This blog has previously noted the local police’s cosy relationship with Lutfur’s council – but what on earth is the Met playing at here? Serious questions – more serious questions – need to be asked about whether we can ever trust what this force is saying.
Even, of course, if the statement by the Met had been true – even if Tower Hamlets didn’t face any allegation of criminality – the list of charges against Rahman is long.
In four years of writing about the mayor, for instance, this blog has never made any allegation of criminality against him. There’s quite enough evidence about his cronyism, favouritism, links with extremism, bullying, intimidation, unscrupulousness and general political sleaze to make clear that he is entirely unfit for office..
Panorama, too, alleged favouritism in the allocation of council grants and misuse of council resources for electioneering purposes. The fraud allegation didn’t form part of the programme because it wasn’t ready for broadcast in time.
But be in no doubt – as well as the auditor investigation into Tower Hamlets into all the non-criminal sleaze, there most certainly is an ongoing police investigation, for all the Met’s denials to the contrary.