Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Conservative councillor 'asked for bribes'

An ex-Tory councillor asked two businessmen in London for £20,000 in bribes to help them with a property development, jurors heard.

Suresh Kumar, 44, even suggested half the money should be paid into his local party, Southwark Crown Court heard.

But his demands were secretly taped by an undercover reporter, it is alleged.

The former Redbridge councillor, from Newbury Park, east London, denies three counts of corruption between 11 November and 12 December 2004.

Two accuse him of "corruptly soliciting" £10,000 payments as a "reward for assisting in the passing and processing of a planning application", while the third mentions a fee but no amount.

Sean Larkin, prosecuting, told the court the development for 17 flats on the site of a derelict east London petrol station had been drawn up by Jasbir Bhogul and Rajwinder Rana, partners in Silverlake Properties Ltd.

Election campaign

Before the application was due to be considered, the defendant phoned Mr Bhogul, who had helped him with his election campaign the previous year, jurors heard.

The application was passed without any money changing hands.

Jurors heard that two weeks later the councillor contacted Mr Bhogul once more and again offered his help - for a price.

But this time the pair contacted a national newspaper, which told them to set up another meeting.

When questioned by police, the councillor insisted it was "a put up job by Mr Bhogul, supported by Mr Rana, to bring me down".

He was suspended from the local Conservative group in December 2004 after the allegations were published in a Sunday newspaper.

He ran as an independent but failed to win enough votes in 2006.

The trial continues.


UPDATE 27/11/09

A former Conservative councillor convinced an expert witness to alter evidence against him while on trial for corruptly demanding £10,000 in bribes, a court heard today.

Suresh Kumar, 44, of Eastern Avenue, Newbury Park, enlisted the help of Punjabi-speaking interpreter Baldev Sidhu, 61, to change transcripts of secretly taped conversations during the trial last year, jurors heard.

Kumar, who was elected to Redbridge Council in 2003, had allegedly demanded £10,000 from property developers who needed planning permission.

Southwark Crown Court heard Kumar asked one of the men to join the local Conservative association having just demanded the first payoff in November 2004.

Kumar later told members of the local Conservative association there was a "possibility of a £10,000 donation" to top up the party coffers, it was said.

Jurors heard during Kumar's bribery trial he enlisted the help of Sidhu, an expert defence witness, to alter the evidence against him.

Kumar is now facing a string of corruption charges relating to his alleged cash demands.

He and Sidhu are also accused of conspiring to pervert the course of justice and doing acts intended to pervert the course of justice.

Sidhu is also accused of perjury for lying under oath when he said he was on the National Register of Interpreters.

Prosecutor Thomas Kark told the court: "This case is about dishonesty, about bribery, about perverting the proper course of justice and lying in court.

"The first part concerns allegations of corruption against Suresh Kumar and they arise when he was a Conservative councillor in Redbridge in 2004.

"The second part of the case arises subsequently when in 2008 Mr Kumar was tried at the this very court and he called Mr Sidhu as an expert interpreter of some secretly taped conversations which had taken place in the language of Punjabi.

"It became apparent during Mr Sidhu's evidence that he was telling lies about a number of facts including the circumstances in which his expert reports had come to be written."

Mr Kark said the costly jury trial then had to be abandoned.

Jurors heard Jasbir Bhogal and Rajwinder Rana were seeking planning permission to turn a derelict petrol station in Green Lane, Goodmayes, into flats when they approached Kumar back in 2004.

Kumar was sitting on the regulatory committee and tried to persuade Mr Bhogal, who had helped him during his election to pay up, it is said.

Mr Kark said Mr Kumar ignored the "councillors' code of conduct" by asking for the money.

Kumar denies three counts of corruption alleging he "did corruptly solicit for himself a fee or reward for assisting in the processing of a planning application" between November 11 and December 12, 2004.

He and Sidhu, of Portland Road, Birmingham, both deny conspiring "together, to do a series of acts, namely altering the transcripts of taped conversations with intent to pervert the course of justice" on or before April 14, last year and deny doing acts intending to pervert the course of justice.

Sidhu alone further denies once charge of perjury by saying he was on the National Register of Interpreters and for lying about a report he had written for the case and about a witness statement he had made for the case.

The trial continues.

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