Thursday, February 21, 2008

Labour Officials guilty of vote rigging

A SECOND Labour party official has been found guilty of trying to rig an election.

Maqbool Hussein (52) had hoped to get himself elected in Peterborough's Central Ward in local elections in June 2004, by abusing the voting system.

But instead of getting into power, he succeeded only in getting himself into a mess.

The once prospective candidate, of Ledbury Road, Netherton, Peterborough, stood in the dock at King's Lynn Crown Court on Monday a shamed man.

Convicted of four counts of forgery by majority verdicts after a four-month trial, he was joined in the dock by disgraced former mayor Mohammed Choudhary who has already been found guilty of four counts of forgery.

Their attempts to rig the election have left their reputations in tatters.

The court has heard how detectives launched an investigation into the elections after people began complaining that they were unable to cast their votes when they went to a polling station.

Police were also suspicious about the high turnout of voters – 61.7 per cent.

While the sheer number of votes cast by post – 2,900 – seemed "out of all proportion" when compared to the rest of the city.

During the trial it was claimed police discovered the men had "hijacked" ballot papers, directing them to core addresses, in a botched attempt to rig the Central ward elections.

The pair were also said to have registered "away" postal votes.

Choudhary even used his own daughter's address, in Cobden Avenue, Millfield, for 15 postal voting forms to be directed to.

Hussein, and Choudhary, along with Tariq Mahmood, were accused of abusing the system whereby voters can choose an "away" address, instead of their usual home address, to cast their vote from, if they happen to be away from home on business, or on holiday, at the time of an election.

The court heard how the victims of the fraud fell into two categories – those who had not seen their ballot papers, and those who had handed over their papers to someone else.

Some voters were said to have given their papers to a third party because of cultural reasons – where the head of the family is in charge of the family's poll cards – literacy problems, those who did not understand English, and those who were unaware of how the voting process worked.

Hussein had denied eight counts of forgery during the trial, while Choudhary had also pleaded not guilty to the 10 charges he faced.

Jurors are still deliberating over further counts of forgery relating to Mahmood (40), of Clarence Road, Peterborough, who was Labour party secretary at the time of the elections.

He faces 14 counts of forgery.


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