Socialist Worker

Labour councillors wanted bribes for planning permission, tape suggests

Issue No. 2584

Artists impression of the planned Alpha Square development in Tower Hamlets

Artists impression of the planned Alpha Square development in Tower Hamlets


Labour politicians in Tower Hamlets, east London, have been accused of arranging to accept bribes from property developers.

The Sunday Times obtained a tape recording of a conversation in November 2015 between a consultant and businessman Shukur Khalisadar.

The council was under the direction of Tory-appointed commissioners at the time, after the removal of Tower Hamlets First mayor Lutfur Rahman.

The consultant was acting on instructions from the Far East Consortium (FEC). The firm was seeking planning permission for a development in the borough.

Ten days earlier, Khalisadar had held a private meeting with John Connolly, UK head of development for the FEC. He had told Connolly that £2 million would guarantee the FEC planning permission.

In the recording, the consultant recalled how Khalisadar had pulled Connolly to one side and said, “It’s two million quid—guaranteed planning.” Khalisadar burst into laughter at the recollection.

He repeated his demands in the recording and said that, if the deal went through, further deals could be made. He said “gatekeepers” in Labour chose him to offer the bribe—and were the “same people that have been in power for the last 10-15 years”.

Buffer

“Don’t think for one moment that you are the first establishment they have done this with,” he said. “I’m just a buffer between these politicians and the private sector.”

The FEC first tried to secure planning permission in June 2015. It withdrew the attempt because it didn’t meet strategic development objectives for the area—and began to adapt its plans.

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Connolly held a private meeting with Shiria Khatun, then new deputy mayor of Tower Hamlets council, on 3 August 2015.

On 26 October Khatun introduced Connolly to Khalisadar, saying he “can help get planning consent”. This is the meeting discussed in the recording.

In an internal memo Connolly said Khatun had told him that Khalisadar “can help get planning consent”.

Khalisadar explained that the money would be split among four Labour politicians. “A bulk of the premium’s got to go to these greedy fuckers—not me,” he said.

He later sent a contract to developers saying he could “deliver planning approval” at a “premium of £2,000,000”. He claimed four Labour politicians would get “half a mill” each.

Khalisadar has admitted asking for £2 million but denied corruption. He told the Daily Mail newspaper that the recording was “partial and misleading”. Khatun also denies any wrongdoing.

The firm reported the recording to Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs. Tower Hamlets council said it had passed the allegations to the National Crime Agency and is “waiting to hear the outcome”.


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