Lutfur Rahman, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, has insisted there was no wrongdoing during last months elections, after it was confirmed that the police inquiry into the voting has broadened to include claims of fake candidates.
The Sunday Telegraph said that at least two candidates standing for the Mayor’s Tower Hamlets First party appear to have given false addresses. Electoral rules require candidates to either live or work in the borough and it is alleged that false addresses were given to conceal the fact that they did not meet this requirement.
One candidate appears to live on the south coast, more than 60 miles from Tower Hamlets. It is a criminal offence to give false information on a nomination paper and is punishable by up to six months’ imprisonment.
The newspaper also said that one of the Tower Hamlets First candidates is standing at a council by-election next month using a different name and address than the one he used in the last poll.
The paper also claimed to have identified a number of fake votes cast in last month’s elections by people who appeared not to live at the addresses the votes were cast from.
The Metropolitan Police have confirmed they are investigating a number of allegations including: “One of making a false statement about a candidate; four of false declarations on nomination papers; and two relating to postal voting.”
Peter Golds, the Conservative leader of the opposition on the council, told the newspaper: “Even by the standards of Tower Hamlets, this looks utterly brazen, probably because the authorities have never taken this problem seriously. I hope they will now start doing so.”
In addition, a formal legal petition to overturn the election result was lodged last week by four local voters. Although it has been claimed that the legal challenge was launched by the Labour party, Andy Erlam, Red Flag Anti Corruption party candidate in the Tower Hamlets council elections said the petition was free from political party involvement. On the party website he said: “The political affiliations of the Petitioners vary from UKIP to Labour supporters to Red Flag-Anti-Corruption. Supporters of several political parties, including some leading people, are supplying a huge amount of information which is now being collated. The individual Petitioners are financing the Petition personally and we are not receiving any money from any political party.”
If the legal action is successful and the claims are found to be true it could result in a re-run of the mayoral contest, with Rahman being banned from holding office.
Rahman refutes the allegations. His agent Alibor Choudhury said: “All candidates in the mayoral election accept the results. This petition challenging the results does not raise any new issues or evidence.” And speaking to BBC London , the re-elected mayor said: “I have done, and we have done, nothing wrong.”
These latest allegations follow claims of a string of electoral irregularities in the election, including complaints of voter intimidation and reports that supporters of Rahman had taken uncompleted postal ballot papers away from people against their will.
The Electoral Commission is currently investigating the count, which took five days to be completed after widespread allegations of intimidation at polling stations in the east London borough.
Two people have been arrested so far; a 24-year-old on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud in relation to postal vote applications on June 3 and a 38-year-old man in connection with an allegation of potentially false declarations on nomination forms on May 13.
However of the total 84 complaints of electoral malpractice made in Tower Hamlets after last month’s local elections, only 8 remain under investigation say police.
Rahman was elected for a second mayoral term in a tight contest with Labour’s John Biggs beating him by 3000 votes.
Meanwhile Labour won the majority of seats in the council elections and now hold 20 seats, compared to Tower Hamlets First’s 18, but lost overall control of the borough.