William Eichler 10 September 2018

Not enough evidence to prosecute in Tower Hamlets fraud case, Met says

An investigation into allegations of fraud in Tower Hamlets has concluded that there is not enough evidence to prosecute those involved, although evidence of a ‘serious criminal offence’ has been uncovered.

The former mayor of Tower Hamlets in east London, Lutfur Rahman, was forced to step down after an election court found him guilty of corruption in relation to the 2014 mayoral election.

Mr Rahman has not, however, faced criminal prosecution.

In May last year, the Met launched an investigation - Operation Lynemouth - to reinvestigate previous or new criminal allegations relating to the election.

There was not enough evidence to consider a criminal prosecution.

‘The MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] undertook this new investigation because it recognised there were concerns about the previous police investigations, and it was important to identify any immediate matters for action in advance of the 2018 mayoral election in Tower Hamlets,’ said Commander Stuart Cundy, who oversaw the investigation.

‘A team of specialist detectives, led by one of our most experienced senior investigating officers, have reviewed thousands of pieces of information and witness evidence over the past 15 months.

‘The reinvestigation has concluded that, whilst there were some areas for improvement, overall the previous police investigations into electoral fraud, including the Met’s Special Enquiry team investigations, were conducted effectively.’

‘I know some will remain concerned as to why the criminal investigation has not led to persons being convicted of a criminal offence,’ Commander Cundy continued.

‘As explained in his judgment, Mr Mawrey QC was clear that the rules and procedures for the admissibility of evidence in an election court is quite different to criminal proceedings.

‘In reaching its conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to seek any new charging decision for a criminal offence, our reinvestigation has robustly considered all the evidence that is available.’

Despite not finding sufficient evidence for a criminal prosecution in relation to electoral fraud, the investigation did identify ‘prima facie evidence’ of a serious criminal offence, which is not directly related to electoral fraud.

Commander Cundy said they had obtained early investigative advice from the Crown Prosecution Service and specialist legal counsel, and the City of London Police have agreed to undertake a full and separate criminal investigation.

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said: 'This is a judgement for the police and the CPS to make, and we have fully cooperated with their investigation.

'There have been substantial improvements across the council since new leadership and management was put in place in 2015.

'We now have solid governance, much greater transparency and accountability, all of which have been recognised by the government and other organisations.'

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