DISGRACED former Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman has been having second thoughts about what property he owns since a high court ruling in April made his election void for corrupt and illegal practices and ordered him to pay the legal costs of the four individuals who had brought the proceedings.
As the petitioners’ final bill will take ages (and a lot more legal costs) to tot up, Rahman was told to pay them £250,000 on account by 7 May. The day came and went but not a penny appeared. The petitioners were not unduly concerned, as Rahman had given sworn evidence that he was the sole beneficial owner of two properties in the East End; the claimants knew they had a net value well in excess of £250,000, so they took steps to enforce the order by registering charges again them.
A freezing injunction
Alas for them, Rahman is trying to thwart these efforts as he now remembers that – contrary to what he said on oath, and, even though the properties are registered in his name – he owns only 26 percent interest in one of the properties after all, and instead his wife owns the rest of it and the whole of the other one. He has yet to explain why the mortgage payments for the properties have come from his bank account and why he receives rent from the one he says he has no interest in at all.
This will all be sorted out a hearing in December. To protect their position in the meantime, the petitioners obtained a freezing injunction earlier this month to prevent Rahman disposing of his assets, up to a value of £350,000, as, based on this and other matters, the judge concluded there was a risk Rahman would otherwise dissipate his assets and take steps to evade enforcement of the judgment.
Apart from Rahman’s property interests (or lack of them), a number of other matters caught the judge’s attention. These included Rahman’s claim to owe £750,000 for loans he claims were made by his loyal supporters to fund his own legal costs. A clearly sceptical judge noted that there were doubts about the ability of some of these supporters to lend the sort of sums claimed.
One lender was Rahman’s 24-year-old niece, whose job, the judge said diplomatically, “is not likely to enable her to acquire large capital sums” (she works as an administrator in the NHS) but who nevertheless had, according to Rahman, come up with £82,500! This, and other examples, raised issues about whether these sums might have actually come from Rahman and whether he was trying to disguise their true source.