An east London mayor has been found guilty of electoral fraud after an election was declared void.
Lutfur Rahman has now been removed from office after an Election Commissioner declared yesterday that Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman breached election rules.
The case follows the allegation by four voters who claimed he used “corrupt and illegal practices” in last year’s election, which will now be re-run.
Rahman, who denied any wrong-doing, has been banned from standing again and was ordered to pay £250,000 in costs at the High Court hearing.
One of his aides, Alibor Choudhury, was also found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices.
Tower Hamlets First, Rahman’s party, said the judgement was a “shock” and it was seeking further legal advice in relation to a judicial review.
Election commissioner Richard Mawrey who sat as a judge, said the mayor had “driven a coach and horses through election law and didn’t care”.
He added it was as if the election “had never taken place” and he had not lawfully been mayor since he was re-elected for a second term on 24 May 2014.
“The evidence laid before this court…has disclosed an alarming state of affairs in Tower Hamlets.
“This is not the consequence of the racial and religious mix of the population, nor is it linked to any ascertainable pattern of social or other deprivation.
“It is the result of the ruthless ambition of one man,” Mawrey said.
Rahman who was born in Bangladesh, was described as an “evasive and discursive witness whose evidence was untruthful on occasion.” Mawrey also suggested he had played “race” and “religious” cards.
He said Rahman ran a “ruthless and dishonest campaign to convince the electorate his rival John Biggs was a racist”.
After the ruling, Labour London Assembly member, Biggs, said Rahman and his allies had “robbed the people of Tower Hamlets of the free and fair mayoral election they deserved and betrayed everyone in our community who trusted and voted for him”.
The group of voters who brought the action was headed by Andy Erlam, who stood as a councillor. He said it was “a fantastic result for democracy”.
The allegations included “personation” in postal voting and at polling stations and ballot paper tampering. It was also claimed that large amounts were given to organisations which were “totally ineligible or who failed to meet the threshold for eligibility,” were bribed.
Voters were also told that it was their duty as Muslims to vote for Rahman. Mawrey cited a letter signed by 101 Imams in Bengali stating it was people’s “religious duty” to vote.
Lawyers for Rahman, who was re-elected for Tower Hamlets First last May, described the claims as “invention”, “exaggeration” and “in some cases downright deliberately false allegations”.
The Election Judgement said Choudhury, who was also found guilty of illegal practices, must immediately vacate his seat as a councillor and a new by-election must be held in the Stepney ward.
In a statement, Tower Hamlets First said: “The mayor strongly denies any wrongdoing and had full confidence in the justice system and so this result has been surprising to say the least.”