LABOUR MP Apsana Begum appeared in court today after being charged with housing fraud in her constituency of Tower Hamlets.
The 30-year-old MP Poplar and Limehouse was given the one-bedroom home on the Isle of Dogs by Tower Hamlets Council following the breakdown of her marriage. Yet questions have been raised over how she managed to jump to the front of the queue – bypassing thousands of vulnerable citizens, the elderly, and single mothers.
Further questions were raised over the application and her close connections with members of the Council and her long-running history with Tower Hamlets fraudster Lutfur Rahman.
The MP, who was elected to Parliament in December 2019, is accused of concealing the true state of her housing situation between 2013 and 2016 to keep hold of the expensive, much sought-after London property.
Begum’s court hearing was originally scheduled for 10th December, yet at Westminster magistrates court this morning, she appeared in the dock to plead not guilty to the three charges against her.
Prosecutor David Wong said Begum is accused of causing more than £63,000 of loss to the council, calculated by the “cost to the local authority of having had to house someone else in the housing list elsewhere”.
At Westminster Magistrates’ Court today, she denied three counts of fraud by dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for herself or another, or cause or expose other to a loss.
Wearing a black hijab, she spoke only to give her name and to respond to the charges: “I plead not guilty”.
Deputy senior district judge Tan Ikram approved an application to prevent her address from being read out in open court after hearing she is the subject of a “campaign of harassment” by members of her own party.
According to the charges, Ms Begum applied on July 22, 2011 to the Tower Hamlets housing list.
Prosecutor David Wong said: “The reasons for the application was that she was in over-crowded accommodation. Subsequently, on the dates mentioned, she moved out to a different address that which appears in charges two and three. She then ceased to be overcrowded.
“She did not notify housing services.
“The value is in the sum of £63,928.63 which we calculated as the cost to the local authority of having to house someone else on the housing list elsewhere.”
Under the first count she is accused of “dishonestly failing to disclose to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, information which you were under a legal duty to disclose to them, namely that you were no longer living in overcrowded conditions” in Poplar, Tower Hamlets between January 1, 2013 and May 21, 2013.
Under the second she is accused of failing to inform Tower Hamlets housing that she had moved to a property in Spitalfields, east London, between May 21, 2013 and March 23, 2014.
The last charge accuses her of not informing Tower Hamlets housing between the dates October 28, 2015 and March 31, 2016, that the Spitalfields address was not overcrowded between May 2013 and October 2015.
The case was deemed too serious to be dealt with by magistrates and was sent to the crown court for trial.
Begum was given unconditional bail and will next appear at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 5th January.