Apsana Begum, the MP for Poplar and Limehouse, has been cleared of charges of dishonestly failing to disclose information relating to her council housing application between 2013 and 2016.
The council accused her of costing it almost £64,000 by not bringing to its notice that she was no longer living in overcrowded housing, as was the case when she first sought social housing, because she had moved in with her then-husband Ehtashamul Haque.
Ehtashamul Haque is the Labour councillor for Blackwall & Cubitt Town ward and the Chair of the Housing & Regeneration Scrutiny Sub Committee.
The court heard that her family had a growing hostility towards her due to her desire to marry Ehtashamul, who was seven years her senior and twice divorced.
Defence lawyer Helen Law claimed that the complaint which triggered the investigation of housing fraud, made in 2019 by one Sayed Nahid Uddin, who happens to a brother-in-law of Ehtashamul, was ‘false’.
Helen Law also said that Ehtashamul Haque controlled her financial affairs when they were living together between 2013 and 2015.
A jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court dismissed the prosecution and found the MP not guilty of all charges, which was met with applause from the public gallery.
In a statement following the verdict, Ms Begum who was first elected in 2019 with a 28,904 majority thanked those who stood by her during the trial.
“This case has been driven by malicious intent and has caused me great distress and damage to my reputation,” she said. “I would like to say a sincere thank you to all my legal team and all those who have shown me solidarity, support and kindness.
“As a survivor of domestic abuse facing these vexatious charges, the last 18 months of false accusations, online sexist, racist, and Islamophobic abuse, and threats to my safety, have been exceedingly difficult.
“I also thank the jury for vindicating me, and the judge for presiding over this trial. I will be consulting and considering how to follow up so that something like this doesn’t happen again to anyone else
“I would now like to get on with my job of representing my constituents – opposing the negligent COVID decisions made by (Prime Minister Boris) Johnson’s reckless Tory government which has caused so many families to lose loved ones who should still be with us today and so much hardship that could have been avoided.
“My comrades and friends, in Poplar and Limehouse, and beyond, have stood by me, I have and will always stand by them.”.
A Tower Hamlets spokesperson said the council accepted the jury’s verdict.
“We have a duty to investigate any allegations of housing fraud in order to ensure public money is spent correctly and that those waiting on our housing register are treated fairly,” a statement released by the council said.