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'Nothing proved' in mayor trial

A lawyer representing a mayor accused of electoral fraud has told a High Court hearing "nothing" has been proved.

Duncan Penny QC told an election court trial that Lutfur Rahman - independent mayor of Tower Hamlets, east London - had faced "disparate allegations" backed by "precious little" evidence.

Four voters have accused Mr Rahman of electoral fraud.

They want election commissioner Richard Mawrey - who is sitting as a judge at the trial in London - to declare void the result of the May 2014 mayoral election, which saw Mr Rahman elected for a second term, and order a re-run.

Mr Rahman denies wrongdoing.

Lawyers for both sides are outlining their final submissions to Mr Mawrey, who is expected to deliver a ruling later in the year.

A lawyer for the four voters attacked the credibility of Mr Rahman - leader of a party called Tower Hamlets First (THF).

Barrister Francis Hoar told Mr Mawrey that "grave allegations" had been made by the four voters - and he said they had been "proven".

He said accounts given by Mr Rahman were unlikely to be true unless sustained by other evidence.

Mr Hoar said the credibility of Mr Rahman, and of Mr Rahman's election agent, Alibor Choudhury - a THF member of Tower Hamlets Council and the council's cabinet member for resources - were "at the heart" of the case.

And he said Mr Rahman had used his powers "wholly contrary to public law".

"Mr Rahman's accounts are unlikely to be true unless they are sustained by other evidence," Mr Hoar told Mr Mawrey.

"Mr Choudhury's accounts are unlikely to be true unless they are sustained by other evidence."

He added: "Corruption ... is at the heart of Mr Rahman's administration."

Mr Hoar said the trial had been told that THF "had no bank account".

And he said the approach of Mr Choudhury - THF's treasurer - to election expenses was "frankly diabolical".

"There is no logical explanation for an organisation of that size having no bank account," said Mr Hoar.

"The only reason, we submit, why you would have no bank account is so that you can engage in fraud.

"The only reason why you would have no bank account is so that you can engage in money laundering.

"The only reason why you would have no bank account is so that you can engage in election expenses offences."

He added: "Mr Rahman and Mr Choudhury have wholly failed to provide an explanation."

Mr Penny said the four voters "asserted" that Tower Hamlets had become a "rotten borough".

"It is perhaps rather more aimed at the sub-editors of certain sections of the press than the (court)," Mr Penny told Mr Mawrey.

"It happens also to be wholly inaccurate as a matter of historical fact."

He said the allegation was also a "grave insult" to the voters who elected Mr Rahman.

"None of these allegations have been proved to the required standard," said Mr Penny.

"It is a pattern of disparate allegations backed up by precious little objective fact or evidence."

Mr Penny said it had been suggested that the reason THF had no bank account was to make "fraud and offending easier".

He added: "This is an example of just how far the (four voters) are prepared to go in the cannon of wild allegations."

And he said their petition should be dismissed.

Mr Rahman was in court today to hear lawyers' summaries.

The four voters have mounted a challenge under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act.

Lawyers for the group have made a series of allegations, including ''personation'' in postal voting and at polling stations, and ballot paper- tampering.

Mr Rahman says there is ''little, if any'' evidence of wrongdoing against him.

His lawyers have described the group of four's claims as invention, exaggeration and ''in some cases downright deliberately false allegations''.

The hearing continues.


From Belfast Telegraph