Cllr Peter Golds is Leader of the Conservative Group on Tower Hamlets Council.
Last Thursday, Cllr Mohammed Shahed Ali, a Tower Hamlets councillor for ten years was jailed for five months after pleading guilty to one count of housing fraud under Section 3 of the Fraud Act 2006; for failing to disclose his property portfolio when completing a housing application form for a council tenancy.
Ali was elected to the council on three occasions. Firstly in 2006 for the Respect Party, in 2010 for Labour and in 2014 for Tower Hamlets First.
After defecting from Respect to Labour he was appointed by then Cllr Lutfur Rahman to his Cabinet. He lost this position in 2010 when Rahman failed to become Labour group leader. He defected to the Rahman group after the 2010 Mayoral election, and was again appointed by Rahman to the Cabinet until Rahman himself was disqualified from office in 2015.
The story of his criminality begins in February 2001 when he applied for social housing citing overcrowding and giving an address at Datchett House, E3. On the application form he signed that he would notify the council if his circumstances change.
A year later he purchased a former council property in Pinnace House, E14 which he rented out. He did not change the statement on the application form that his circumstances had changed, which he was legally obliged to do.
In March 2008 he further purchased the British India Restaurant, 36-38 Connaught Avenue, Frinton on Sea. The premises have family-sized flats on the first and second floors. Once again he did not change the statement on the application form that his circumstances had changed.
In 2001 his late father, using Right to Buy legislation, purchased the lease of 38 Welstead House, E1. In all three of his election contests he gave this as his home address on nomination papers. Upon the death of his widowed mother he inherited this property. He continued to rent out Pinnace House and owned and run the British India Restaurant.
Eventually his application for social housing reached the top of the housing list and he bid for and accepted the tenancy of 17 Harkness House, 101 Christian Street, E1. In doing this he failed to disclose his circumstances and continued to rent out Pinnace House whilst owning and running the British India Restaurant and officially living at his other property, 38 Welstead House, E1.
It was during the 2015 election petition that this all came to light as he registered himself to vote at both Welstead House and Harkness House. In the 2014 election votes were cast in his name from both addresses. In advance of the election court hearing his ballot papers were impounded by the High Court and made available to the police.
Predictably, the police were unable to establish evidence of a corrupt practice and so concluded their investigation. No presiding officer reported any voter in his Whitechapel polling station wearing rubber gloves on being handed their ballot paper. In fact there will be few fingerprints on the ballot paper and it is therefore possible to test them for finger prints. Perhaps the Metropolitan Police do not have the equipment?
However, this matter was raised in the election court and here are the relevant, numbered, paragraphs in the Mawrey Judgement:
“328 At this point I should mention the mysterious case of Mr Shahed Ali. He was registered as being resident at two separate addresses, Flat 38 Welstead House, Cannon Street Road, E1 2LJ and 17 Harkness House, 101 Christian Street, E1 1RX. Both these addresses were in the same division of Whitechapel Ward (WH3) whose polling station was Henry Gosling Primary School. Mr Ali, though submitting a witness statement on behalf of Mr Rahman, was not called as a witness.
329 Absent from any explanation being tendered to the court, it would appear that Mr Ali had himself registered twice in the ward in which he was standing (indeed stood successfully) as a THF candidate. On the face it, both addresses cannot have met the residence test and the inescapable inference is that at least one of them is false.
330 In dealing with the case of Mr Shahed Ali, the court is in no way embarrassed by the refusal of the parties to adduce his evidence or other evidence concerning his electoral behaviour. During the course of the Scrutiny, representatives of the Metropolitan Police removed the two ballots cast from these addresses in the Mayoral election and, it is understood may have obtained by another route the ballots cast in the ward and European elections. Mr Ali was arrested but it was decided that there was insufficient evidence to charge him with an electoral fraud.”
For a decade this man served as a councillor bound by the Nolan principles.
For half of that time he was a senior member of the administration taking part in, and voting on decisions relating to housing allocations and matters of probity.
After investigation by the council’s internal fraud service he was summoned by the council to appear at Thames Magistrates Court in December 2015. He was represented by Hodge, Allen, Jones (Solicitors). Initially he tried not to enter a plea. He was advised by the Judge to take advice and returned with a plea of “not guilty.” During the adjournment the Judge established that he was an elected public official and referred the case to Snaresbrook Crown Court.
He subsequently dismissed his solicitors and appointed a company based in Dewsbury and was represented at Snaresbrook Court by Recorder Abdul Iqbal QC of Park Square Chambers, Leeds.
The case was scheduled for a three day hearing in late September and on the first day, after an adjournment he finally pleaded guilty. Whilst awaiting sentence, Tower Hamlets First, or whatever the currently call themselves, organised a campaign of testimonials to be presented to the Court indicating his long and valued service to the community!
There were also indications of his ownership/occupation of yet another property in Upney. In addition it has just been revealed that the council took him to court for unpaid council tax.
Once again where are the police in all of this? No doubt Cllr Shahed Ali was one of those “spoken to.” In the so called investigation following on from the election petition
Perhaps the surreal nature of this “group” is best indicated by revealing that in March 2015, whilst in the Rahman cabinet, he was one of a number of Tower Hamlets First councillors to visit Greece for a meeting with the Syriza Parliamentary Group. This “group” was led by Cllr Oliur Rahman who wore a Homburg hat, he said, given to him by George Galloway.
In the meantime, Lutfur Rahman, at a meeting the previous week, anointed his personal choice as mayoral candidate for the 2018 election. This is to be Cllr Ohid Ahmed, generally regarded even amongst Tower Hamlets First, as one of the weaker councillors in a crowded field of general incompetence. He said in his victory statement that he will “not rest until winning back the mayoralty for the community.”
One may ask what community? Photographs taken at the event showed an all middle aged male line up. I have seen more diversity in an average gay bar…
The September Tower Hamlets council meeting showed that Tower Hamlets First are up to their old tricks of disruption and intimidation. Shahed Ali led a walkout of their councillors in an outburst of synthetic rage, playing to a crowded gallery where, in 21st century Britain, the Tower Hamlets First supporters sat, men in all the front rows and the women were huddled out of sight, at the rear.
That is what they mean by community.
Now there is to be a by-election in a ward that has been a by word for malpractice and corruption. The first anonymous leaflet with bizarre allegations has been circulated and indeed tweeted. It will be interesting to see whether the police actually honour “their commitment to free and fair elections?”
None of us are holding our breaths.