Benefit fraud councillor jailed for sixteen weeks

Shelina Akhtar pic: Tower Hamlets Council

Tower Hamlets councillor Shelina Akhtar has been jailed today after being found guilty of three counts of benefit fraud.

Akhtar, the Spitalfields and Banglatown Independent councillor, was jailed for 16 weeks at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

She pleaded guilty to three counts of benefit fraud, falsely claiming housing and council tax benefits for a second home at a hearing last month. Two years ago she was found guilty of similar offences.

Shelina Aktar, an independent for Spitalfields and Banglatown ward, made the claims for a property in Blackwall Way, Poplar, despite living elsewhere.

The offences took place between November 2009 and September 2010. Akhtar, 33, of Blackwell Way, also sub-let the first property.

The false claim for housing benefit was £1,085 in total while the council tax benefit was £29 in total.

At the initial hearing at Snaresbrook Crown Court in January, Judge J Platt told Akhtar: “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 has also previously been found guilty of dishonestly claiming benefits in July 2010. After the case at Thames Magistrates’ Court, Akhtar was given 100 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £250 costs.

Councillor Peter Golds told EastLondonLines: “This is the second such incident for which Shelina Akhtar has been convicted. She is also denying the tenancy of her property on Blackwall Way to a person with genuine needs.

“If she has a shred of decency she will resign immediately. It is outrageous that a convicted criminal should continue to be a voting member of a public authority with a budget exceeding £1 billion.”

Mayor Lutfur Rahman said: “Everyone who represents the interests of this community must abide by the highest standards of personal conduct in public life. The council has procedures to follow and I understand that it will await the outcome of the sentencing before deciding what, if any, further steps it will take against the councillor concerned.”

Akhtar was elected as a councillor in May 2010.

Additional reporting by Adelle Kalakouti


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