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Solicitor and ex-councillor of London borough jailed for housing fraud

A solicitor and former councillor has been sentenced to serve 16 months in custody after pleading guilty to two counts of fraud.

Tower Hamlets Council's specialist housing fraud team had started investigating Muhammad Harun after receiving a tip-off.

Following the investigation, the council brought charges relating to Harun’s failure to carry out his legal duty to disclose relevant facts in relation to his application for housing. The council said these included that:

  • He had made an application for housing in January 2006 from his mother’s property at Solander Gardens, E1.
  • After being evicted from the property at Solander Gardens, he was housed in temporary accommodation from January 2006 to July 2010. He was then given a permanent three-bedroom home at Grundy Street, E14.
  • On July 19 2007 he purchased a property at Lancaster Avenue in Barking, IG11.
  • After being housed in temporary accommodation from January 2006 to July 2010, he was given a permanent 3-bedroom home at Grundy Street, E14.
  • He purchased the property at Solander Gardens in August 2013.
  • At no time did he comply with his legal obligation to notify Tower Hamlets that he had purchased these properties, whilst also having a social housing property.

Tower Hamlets said Harun would not have been considered for social housing from the moment he purchased the first property, if the council had been aware of the change in his circumstances.

Harun pleaded guilty to the two counts of fraud at Thames Magistrates Court on 26 September 2019.

He had previously represented the Lansbury ward on Tower Hamlets Council following the local government elections in May 2018 and stood down as a councillor in December 2018 when the fraud investigation was first announced.

Speaking as the sentence was given at Snaresbrook Crown Court last week (14 November), His Honour Judge Sanders said the length of time over which the fraud was committed, the multiple applications for social housing and false declarations warranted a custodial sentence.

The judge told Harun that he had made hundreds of bids for social housing and was a beneficiary of accommodation to which he was not entitled.

Harun had already paid the council £124,679.94 in compensation for providing him and his family with temporary accommodation that could have been provided to a homeless family.

Will Tuckley, Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Council, said: “This case sends a very clear message that whoever you are, you cannot expect to get away with fraud and depriving a homeless family of a safe and secure home. With one of the fastest growing populations in the country and 20,000 people on our housing waiting list, knowingly taking away such a precious resource is not only illegal but unforgiveable.

“Our housing fraud team have a number of resources and years of professional expertise at hand. The team carry out detailed investigations that often lead to charges and court action. Recovered homes are returned to the housing stock. I would encourage anyone who suspects housing fraud may be taking place to think about those homeless families denied a home, and to come forward in confidence.”

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