Thursday, September 30, 2010

Conservative Councillors jailed - Ballot Fraud

FIVE Bradford men, including two former councillors, were jailed today for their parts in a failed postal votes scam aimed at getting a Conservative Party candidate elected in the 2005 general election.
A judge heard that a newspaper investigation and police inquiry unearthed a plot to try to get Tory candidate Haroon Rashid elected in the marginal Bradford West seat using hundreds of fraudulent postal vote applications.

Leeds Crown Court was told detectives examined about 900 suspicious forms - many from people who did not exist or had no idea an application had been made on their behalf.

The plot was foiled before the conspirators had the chance to convert the applications into votes and, in the end, Mr Rashid was defeated by sitting Labour MP Marsha Singh who won with a majority of more than 3,000.

Prosecutors said that if the press had not intervened in May 2005, "the plan may well have been successful".

Today former Bradford city councillor Jamshed Khan, 65, of Russell Street, Bradford; another former councillor Reis Khan, 40, of Whetley Hill, Bradford; Mohammed Sultan, 52, of Toller Lane, Bradford and Mohammed Rafiq, 70, of Cecil Avenue, Bradford, were each jailed for 21 months for their part in the conspiracy.

All four denied a charge of conspiring to defraud the electoral registration officer of Bradford City Council but were found guilty at a trial earlier this year.

Another defendant, Alyas Khan, 52, of Hilton Road, Bradford, admitted the offence and was jailed for 11 months.

Electoral Commission chairwoman Jenny Watson said: "We welcome the sentences given to the five men involved in the Bradford fraudulent registration case. Electoral fraud is a crime and, rightly, is taken seriously by the police, courts and all those involved in running elections."

The court was told that up to 50 different people were involved in forging the applications although many have not been identified and others have not been brought to court.

Judge Robert Bartfield told the defendants: "To that extent, I can understand if some of you feel you are taking the entire responsibility for what was a much larger enterprise."

The court heard that Rafiq even got his teenage daughter to help him fill out some of the 114 postal vote applications he was found to have forged.

Prosecutor Mark Ainsworth told the judge: "The ultimate goal for these conspiritors was clear.

"This was a well-organised and determined effort to subvert the democratic process in a parliamentary election."

Mr Ainsworth said it was only newspaper coverage and the police investigation which stopped the men turning the applications into votes.

He said: "That, we say, prevented these conspirators from harvesting all the votes that they had lined up.

"If this fraud had not been detected, the plan may well have been successful."

Mr Ainsworth told the court the scam operated in a number of different ways.

Some of it involved registering people to vote who did not exist. In other cases, it involved applying for votes for real people but without their knowledge.

One way this was done was by using multiple-occupation homes controlled by conspirators with communal postal systems.

The judge said part of the plot involved attempting to "harvest" the votes of those "unfamiliar or uninvolved in the British electoral process".

Sentencing the five men, Judge Bartfield told them he had reduced their sentences considerably due to the severe medical conditions each is suffering from and the extreme delay which had been involved in their cases.

The court heard the men were arrested in 2005 and, in the meantime, two trials began but had to be stopped.

The third trial finished in July with the four convictions.

Earlier in the process, the candidate Mr Rashid was acquitted of the charge of conspiracy to defraud on the orders of the judge.

The court heard details about three of the five defendants' connections with the Conservative Party.

As well as the two former Tory councillors, Alyas Khan was an officer with the party. But the two other defendants - Sultan and Rafiq - were not political activists, the judge was told.

Judge Bartfield told the court his understanding was that new postal voting procedures made this kind of fraud much more difficult to carry out.

He said there appeared to be evidence of this if the number of fraud cases linked to the 2005 general election is compared with this year's poll, in which such offences were "rare".

Some of the defendants wiped away tears as they left the dock to begin their prison sentences.

Many members of their families who packed the court were also crying.

The judge adjourned the case to a date to be fixed for questions of costs to be decided. Mr Ainsworth put the cost of prosecuting the case, not including the two aborted trials, at about £65,500.

A West Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: "Election fraud has the potential to undermine confidence in the democratic process.

"Bradford City Council electoral unit raised concerns and a full and lengthy investigation was undertaken by West Yorkshire Police.

"Both Bradford Council and the returning officer work in close liaison with the police in regard to any allegations surrounding elections and together we are committed to ensuring that all elections are conducted fairly and impartially."

Simon Orme, of the Crown Prosecution Service special crime division, said: "The Crown Prosecution Service takes electoral fraud very seriously indeed. These offences not only attack democracy, but they also have the potential to undermine the public's perception of, and confidence in, the democratic system in this country.

"Alyas Khan, Mohammed Sultan, Mohammed Rafiq, Reis Khan and Jamshed Khan undertook a well-organised attempt to get 'their man' elected by dishonest means. They used a variety of methods to manipulate the postal voting system in the 2005 Parliamentary election for the West Bradford constituency.

"They failed in that attempt, but that in no way reduces the seriousness of their crimes. Their convictions should serve as a warning that the CPS will robustly prosecute those who attack our democratic system in this way and we are determined that anyone involved in these activities will be brought to justice."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Labour Councillor - Sexual Harrasment

Gilbert Davidson

A MARRIED city councillor has been arrested over claims he acted inappropriately towards a female colleague.

Gilbert Davidson - who represents Glasgow's North East ward - was charged by police after allegedly leaving a suggestive voicemail on former Lord Provost Liz Cameron's mobile phone.

Glasgow's North East ward - was charged by police after allegedly leaving a suggestive voicemail on former Lord Provost Liz Cameron's mobile phone.

The alleged proposition was said to have been made as the pair campaigned at a by-election in Drumchapel last year.

Davidson was charged with a breach of the peace on Monday. Cameron reported the incident last month.

She went to the police after another female councillor, Ruth Black, went public with claims that Davidson had groped her.

Now he has been kicked out of the Labour Party Now he has been kicked out of the Labour Party while they carry out their own enquiry.

A spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party said: "Councillor Gilbert Davidson has been suspended from the Labour group on Glasgow City Council with immediate effect.

"As a police investigation is now ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further."

Strathclyde Police said: "We can confirm that a 67-year-old man has been arrested and charged with an alleged breach of the peace.

"A report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal."

Glasgow City Council too said it would be inappropriate for them to comment.


Labour Councillor - Benefit Fraud

A Highland councillor has been charged following an investigation into alleged benefit fraud.

John Holden, who represents the Inverness South ward, was investigated by police, Highland Council and the Department of Work and Pensions in 2008.

The Crown Office confirmed Mr Holden has been charged, but declined to give any further details.

The case against him is due to call at Inverness Sheriff Court next month.

Mr Holden has said he would rigorously defend the case.

The Labour councillor has been suspended from the party's group on the council.

A Scottish Labour spokesman added: "As a police investigation is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further."


Thursday, August 05, 2010

Conservative Councillor - Bigamy

Councillor Pervez Choudhry, 52, was arrested on Monday and later released on bail.

Choudhry, who was originally elected as a Labour candidate for the Central Ward but later defected to the Tories, is due to appear at Maidenhead Magistrates' Court next Monday.
Peter Dale-Gough, the acting leader of the Conservative group on Slough Borough Council, said Choudhry had told him that he took part in a religious ceremony to his first wife but never went through with the civil ceremony and was therefore not married by law.

His second wife, a GP who was said to be about 10 years his junior, lives and works in Birmingham. He was said to have met her while using an online dating site and married her in Pakistan.

She was thought to have left Choudhury on learning that his previous marriage may not have legally ended.

Choudhry, of Slough, has vowed to clear his name, after agreeing to stand down as the Conservatives' leader.

He said: "I can't comment on the context of the case but I can say without any hesitation that I have done nothing illegal and I'm vigorously going to defend that.We have decided that I am going to step down and retake my responsibilities when I clear my name."

Last summer it was reported that Choudhry had been lucky to escape a suicide bomb attack while on a humanitarian mission in Pakistan.

He told the Local Berkshire newspaper he felt like he had "cheated death" after leaving his flat in Islamabad shortly before a bomb was set off at a building 15 metres away.

He said at the time: "If I had been there a few hours more I hate to think what could have happened. I feel like I've cheated death and am so grateful to my Lord for every day I have."

A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said: "A 52-year-old man has been charged with one count of bigamy. He was charged on Monday.

"Pervez Choudhry of Tuns Lane, Slough, has been bailed to appear before Maidenhead Magistrates' Court on the ninth of August."

Slough Borough Council delined to comment, saying it was a "private matter".


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Conservative Councillor - Sex charges

A Canterbury city councillor has been remanded in custody on serious sex charges against children.

Conservative Martin Fisher, 60, is accused of indecent assault, sexual touching and making and possessing indecent images of children.

The charges relate to two victims under the age of 16 and another aged over 18.

The offences are alleged to have occurred between 1982 and 2010.

Married Fisher, who has represented Tankerton Ward since 1995, was arrested during an early morning raid at his house in Queens Road, Whitstable on Thursday, April 8.

He was questioned at Canterbury police station and remanded in custody after appearing at Dover Magistrates Court on Saturday morning.

He withheld his plea and is due to appear in court again on Friday, April 16.

The insurance writer – who is believed to have four grown-up sons – sits on the council’s audit committee and general purposes committee.

He has been suspended by the Conservatives both in Canterbury and nationally.


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Conservative councillor - Electoral Fraud

A CONSERVATIVE councillor has been suspended and is due in court next month to face allegations of electoral fraud during the May 2008 elections.

The West Midlands Conservative Party confirmed that Palfrey ward Cllr Mohammed Munir was suspended yesterday (Wednesday).

Party press officer Gareth Parry-Jones said: "We understand Cllr Munir has been charged with electoral fraud, so he has been suspended by the Conservative party."

Cllr Munir, aged 57, was first elected to represent the Palfrey Ward in June 2004, but lost his seat to Labour's Mohammad Nazir in 2006.

The Thorpe Road resident stood again for the second Palfrey seat in May 2008 and was successful, securing 134 more votes than Labour candidate Allah Ditta.

West Midlands Police confirmed yesterday that a 57-year-old man had been charged, along with another 30-year-old man.

A Police statement said: "The Director of Public prosecutions has given authorisation for legal proceedings to commence against two men for offences of providing false information to the register of elections and falsely applying for proxy votes. The men aged 57 and 30 years and from Walsall were arrested in January 2009. The investigation relates to irregularities in the May 2008 Walsall Council elections.

"Birmingham Magistrates Court has been informed and legal proceedings have commenced. Both men are scheduled to appear at Birmingham Magistrates Court on Friday, May 21."

Walsall Council Chief Executive Paul Sheehan said: "These matters are still subject to a judicial process and therefore we cannot comment any further."


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Labour Councillor - Benefit Fraud

A Bristol city councillor has been convicted of falsely claiming more than £3,500 in benefits.

Simon Crew, who represents Brislington East, was paid a carer's allowance for looking after his sick mother, a court heard.

But after he was elected as a Labour councillor in May 2007 he failed to tell the Department of Work and Pensions about his new role, allowances for which pushed his earnings beyond the threshold that entitled him to claim a carer's allowance.

The amount wrongly claimed totalled more than £3,550 between May 28, 2007, and October 12, 2008, North Somerset Magistrates Court heard yesterday.

Crew, of Eastwood Road, St Anne's, was convicted of failing to notify a change of circumstances affecting his entitlement to benefit and ordered to pay £1,400 in fines and costs. He has already paid back the money wrongly claimed.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lib Dem Councillor - Fraud

STEPHEN Sharp has stood down from public life with immediate effect — five months after being convicted of fraud.
In a letter dated March 3, Mr Sharp resigned as a councillor on New Mills Town Council and High Peak Borough Council.

The trainee train driver has quit the roles because of work commitments.

He said: "I have decided, with great regret, to stand down as the councillor for New Mills West, on both High Peak Borough and New Mills Town Councils, with immediate effect.

"A daily commute to Leeds, and my current work commitments throughout the North West, make it impossible to meet the demands of regular council and attend meetings."

Mr Sharp stood down as the Liberal Democrats' Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the High Peak, before admitting eight counts of fraud and being sentenced to community service last October.

He faced continued calls to leave public life and stand down as a councillor on both authorities.

Now he has, there will be by-elections to fill the roles on the two councils.

These are expected to be held at the same time as the general election, which is believed to take place on May 6.

The posts are being advertised on the notice board at New Mills Town Council.

Mr Sharp explained: "I have waited till near the general election so the by-elections can run concurrently with it, thus saving council tax payers the cost of another election."

He added: "It has been a privilege to serve the electorate of New Mills and High Peak."

Mr Sharp went on to thank colleagues for showing support over the past five years.

Cllr Alistair Stevens was selected as the Liberal Democrats' Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the High Peak in February.

Three weeks ago, he refused to comment about Mr Sharp, when we asked: "Should he stand down from public life?"

Mr Stevens replied: "I'm here to talk about policies. As far as we're concerned, that's history. That's not a real issue."

He added: "I think this has been done to death in the press. We've moved on, they should move on a bit as well."

But since then, the Advertiser received letters from readers who raised questions over the issue.

Mr Stevens did not want to issue a statement, regarding the resignation of Mr Sharp, calling it a personal matter for him.


Thursday, March 04, 2010

Labour Councillor - Drugs and Money Laundering

Former Preston Council deputy leader Frank McGrath

Frank McGrath, 59, was convicted of nine counts of concealing criminal funds for Silvano Turchet, 55, who is currently serving 15 years for the importation of Class A drugs.

The ex-Labour councillor, of Belton Hill, Fulwood, laundered more than £300,000 for Turchet, Manchester Crown Court heard.

The money was used to purchase a house in Wrexham, bought for £116,000 in December 2004, a hangar where Turchet stored an aeroplane used to import drugs, and a £17,000 designer watch.

McGrath also transferred £154,000 to an Italian bank account, the court heard.

Turchet pleaded guilty to nine counts of transferring criminal property at the beginning of the trial.

Ian Cruxton, deputy director of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), said: ''Frank McGrath made a living on the back of serious organised crime, and anyone who abuses their professional position to prop up criminal activity as he did can expect us to come after them too.''

Andrew Penhale, of the Crown Prosecution Service's Organised Crime Division, said: ''The case illustrates our determination not only to prosecute those criminals engaged directly in organised crime, but also the soft under-belly - those apparently legitimate businesses that facilitate and support organised crime in the background.''

McGrath was remanded in custody for sentencing on March 3 for the crime, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Labour Councillor - Child Porn

A FORMER Labour Party councillor who was the chairman of a board of primary school governors has appeared in court charged with child pornography offences.

Keith Potts is accused of having 24 indecent pictures of youngsters on his home computer.

"We can confirm the chair of governors has resigned"

The 60-year-old, from Edenfield, West Pelton, Chester-le- Street, appeared at Consett Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

He entered no pleas to the 13 counts of making indecent images of children on or before November 12, 2008.

The offences were allegedly carried out while he was the elected representative for the Urpeth ward of Chester-le- Street District Council.

He served as councillor in the area for 26 years, from 1983 to May last year, when the body was abolished and replaced by Durham County Council.

Mr Potts was chairman of the board of school governors at West Pelton Primary School, near Chester-le- Street, but has since resigned.

A spokesperson from Durham County Council said: “We can confirm the chair of governors has resigned as chair and as a member of the governing body.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further while court proceedings are continuing.”

His legal representative, Christian Harbinson, made an application for the case to be adjourned for a week.

John Garside, prosecuting, did not oppose the application and said the images were at the lower end of the scale in terms of seriousness.
He said: “There is no information to suggest these offences are in any way connected with the primary school where he was a governor.”

Chairman of the bench Brian Thompson granted the application for the adjournment and gave Mr Potts unconditional bail until Tuesday.

Mr Potts was given the opportunity to comment about the charges he is facing as he left court, but he declined.

A Durham Police spokesman said: “We cannot comment on active court cases.”


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lib Dem Councillor - Benefit Fraud

A London mayor has been suspended from his post after being arrested on suspicion of benefit fraud.

Camden Mayor Omar Faruque Ansari, 55, was led from the north London borough's town hall by police on Monday.

He was questioned at Holborn police station over claims that he was falsely claiming disability benefits.

A council spokesman said the allegations did not relate to Mr Ansari's work at the council. Mr Ansari was released on bail until March.

He joined Camden Council's Liberal Democrats in 2006 and became mayor in May last year.

'Serious investigation'

Council leader Keith Moffitt said Mr Ansari would be suspended from the Liberal Democrat group while a "serious investigation" was carried out.

A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said: "Officers assisting the Department for Work and Pensions arrested a 55-year-old man yesterday.

"He was taken into custody at a central London police station and bailed to return to a date in March."

The Camden Council spokesman said he would not comment on "allegations relating to the personal lives of its members".

But he added: "No information would suggest that these allegations are connected to Councillor Ansari's work with the council. "We must also note at this stage that these are merely allegations."


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Conservative Councillor - Sex

A Medway councillor has been expelled from his party after being caught kerb crawling.

Cllr Nick Brice, 64, pictured, has been thrown out of the Medway Conservative party after being caught trying to pick up a prostitute in Rochester.

The leader of the party, Cllr Rodney Chambers took the decision to dismiss him this week, after the matter, which happened in November came to light.

Cllr Rodney Chambers said: “The Leader and members of the Conservative Group on Medway Council believes that all elected members should demonstrate and uphold the highest standards in public office and public life.

A serious matter has arisen concerning Cllr Nick Brice’s private conduct outside of the council and as a consequence of this the Conservative Group has taken the decision to expel Cllr Brice from membership of the group with immediate effect.”

A spokesman for Medway Police said: “A 64-year old man from Chatham was arrested on November 2, 2009, on suspicion of kerb crawling in Rochester .

“The man admitted to the offence and was given a conditional caution.”

It is not clear if Cllr Brice will stand down as a councillor altogether or stand as an independent one.

Every effort was made by the Medway Messenger to contact Cllr Brice but he was not available.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Conservative Councillor - Axed

Eddie Wake - Ex Conservative Councillor

A Sunderland city councillor has been expelled from his party after he made offensive comments about rape at a meeting.

Conservative party chiefs said comments by Washington South member Eddie Wake, 56, at the end of a meeting with police, were "totally unacceptable".

Senior party officials expelled him from the Conservative group on Monday.

Mr Wake said he intended to stay on as a councillor and regretted his "lapse of judgement".

At least three councillors reported Mr Wake to his party and to Sunderland Council's standards committee, after he cracked what was described as a "sick joke" at the close of a recent meeting with police about a rape prevention campaign.

The other 21 Conservative councillors on Sunderland City Council feel very let down
Lee Martin, Sunderland Council Tory group leader

On Monday evening Mr Wake appeared before senior Tory party officials and was dismissed from Sunderland's Conservative group.

Group leader Lee Martin said: "When I ask anyone to go out and vote for a Conservative candidate, I've got a minimum expectation, should that person be elected, of how they conduct themselves.

"Eddie Wake has come in well below that standard and as a result is no longer a Conservative councillor.

"We have no sanction to suspend him from council, but there is a complaint in with the standards board and the council can do that if they see fit.

"As soon as the comments were reported to me I brought Eddie in and told him in no uncertain terms that it was unacceptable and what the likely consequences would be.

"The other 21 Conservative councillors on Sunderland City Council feel very let down by Eddie."

Mr Wake said: "I intend to remain as a councillor pending the outcome of a standards committee investigation. "I hope my constituents will judge me on the work I have done for them in the past and not on a single lapse of judgement. "I want to continue to work for the constituents of Washington South."