Police are investigating an alleged corruption scandal in the Labour Party involving a £2 million bribe to guarantee planning permission for one of Britain’s biggest skyscrapers.
Abdul Shukur Khalisadar, who allegedly also requested a £15,000 a month consultancy fee, told the developer he was acting on behalf of Labour “gatekeepers” in the party’s east London stronghold of Tower Hamlets.
He said the cash would guarantee planning permission for its £500 million Alpha Square development in the Isle of Dogs, east London which included a 65-storey tower.
In a tape leaked to The Sunday Times, Khalisadar describes how he sought the bribe from John Connolly, UK head of development for the Hong Kong-based property group Far East Consortium (FEC).
Khalisadar said he was introduced to Connolly in October 2015 by Shiria Khatun, then deputy mayor of Labour-controlled Tower Hamlets Council.
Connolly said in a leaked internal memo that the deputy mayor told him Khalisadar can help get planning consent.
Khalisadar later sent a contract to the developers in which he would deliver planning approval at a “premium of £2,000,000”. Four Labour politicians would be given “half a mill” each, he claimed.
Khalisadar told The Sunday Times he had asked for £2 million but denied this was a corrupt offer.
He told the Daily Mail the recording was “partial and misleading”, adding: “I did not bribe anyone, no contract of any sort was signed with the Far East Consortium. This was two years ago and neither the council nor the police have been in touch with me at any time since then.
“It would not be appropriate to give any further detail while an investigation takes place, other than to say I am not involved in any wrongdoing.”
Khatun, who resigned as deputy mayor earlier this year, denied any wrongdoing.
Khalisadar, who runs a business centre in Whitechapel, east London, has helped create local support for Tower Hamlets’ current Labour mayor, John Biggs. He has also met national party figures, including Harriet Harman when she was deputy leader.
A Labour Party spokesperson said: “Corruption steals from the many to line the pockets of the few. Labour is committed to fighting corruption in all its forms. It would not be appropriate to comment on the specifics of this case as it is now a police matter.”
When asked about the allegations, a spokesman for Tower Hamlets Council said its planning process was not compromised.
He added: “Sound governance and transparency has been at the heart of Tower Hamlets Council’s work since the change of leadership in 2015. This has included a new whistleblowing policy, clear processes for decision making and the independent investigation of historic complaints of wrongdoing.
“Our planning process was not compromised in any way by the Alpha Square planning application. It was rejected by our strategic development committee in February 2016 with six councillors voting to reject it and two abstaining. Council officers recommended it for refusal.
“When the council was made aware of these allegations, we brought in an independent external investigator to gather evidence. Their findings were then assessed by a leading QC who recommended that we report the matter to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). We did this and the SFO then passed it onto the National Crime Agency for investigation. We are waiting to hear the outcome.”
DealMakerz notes that the alleged corruption scandal follows the sacking of Lutfur Rahman, a former Labour councillor in the borough who later became its independent mayor before being found guilty of election fraud in 2015.
Rahman and his cronies used “corrupt and illegal practices” to create an army of “ghost voters”, forged postal votes, bribed Muslim voters with money diverted from groups such as the Alzheimer’s Society and wrongly branded his rival a racist.
It looks like the mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, is facing an uphill battle in his pledge to combat corruption and wrong-doing.