The trial of 31-year-old Poplar and Limehouse MP Apsana Begum on charges of “dishonestly obtaining council housing” began on 21 July 2021 at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

The trial is likely to last between six and eight days.

She denies all charges.

Council flat? Come back in 2036 please!

For those unfamiliar with the length of the Tower Hamlets Council waiting list for social housing, some applicants can wait up to 15 years and many are routinely told that they stand little to no chance of ever gaining a social housing tenancy.

The account below is not meant to be a verbatim account of the court proceedings but more explain the sequence of (disputed) events as this can get a little complex.

At its simplest these are the main events in terms of what Ms. Begum did and what Tower Hamlets Council alleges she did (or not) do.

YearEventAllegation
2011In July Ms. Begum registers for social housing while living at family home.Claims she is living in overcrowded conditions so moves up social housing waiting list.
2013Ms. Begum leaves family home and moves in with husband Ehtasham Haque in his property.Does not notify council of change in her circumstances
2013-14Bids for social housing continue in Ms. Begum’s name.Bids made by Ms. Begum.
2015Begum’s marriage fails, she moved back to family home.Does not notify council of change in her circumstances
2016Still on housing list as living in overcrowded conditions so is awarded tenancy of studio flat.Falsely obtains council tenancy

Chronology of main events

2011

Ms Begum first made an application for council housing in 2011 when living in the family home that had been purchased under the Right to Buy scheme by her parents, stating that she was living in overcrowded accommodation with three other people as the property only had three bedrooms.

This would have moved her up the housing waiting list as she was given three points.

However a later check of council records showed that the premises had four bedrooms, not three as claimed.

2013

Cllr. Haque has suggested Begum had moved in with him on 1 November 2013 but other records held by the council state that Ms. Begum first moved in with Mr Haque in June 2013.

However the prosecution alleges she did not disclose that she had moved in with Cllr. Haque on three separate occasions and that these were deliberate acts to ‘make a gain for herself’.

Informing Tower Hamlets Homes that she had moved out of her parents home to share a flat with Cllr. Haque would have moved her down the social housing waiting list.

Ms Begum or a person using her name (see below) continued to make bids after she moved out to live with Mr Haque on May 21, 2013, until March 2014.

2015

Begum ends her marriage to Ehtasham Haque, a Tower Hamlets Labour councillor in October 2015, when she found out he had cheated on her.

Returning to live in the family home once more where she was still registered as living in overcrowded conditions, it is alleged she once more failed to disclose this change in her circumstances.

2019

The court was told that allegations of housing fraud against Ms. Begum were first made by her ex-husband’s brother-in-law in 2019 and this led to the prosecution.

Ms. Begum originally applied to the social housing register on July 22, 2011.

According to the charges, Begum is accused of failing between January and May 2013 to tell the council’s Housing Options Service that she was “no longer living in overcrowded conditions” at a former address in Poplar.

The information below is taken from a variety press reports. As previously stated it is not a good idea to make comments about the trial on social media as it is quite easy to find yourself in contempt of court and that will ruin your whole day.

Apsana Begum MP canvassing with Mayor John Biggs.

Trial Day 1

Ms. Begum faces three indictments of fraud and stands accused of failing to disclose information to Tower Hamlets Council in housing applications during three separate periods between January 2013 and March 2016.

Prosecutor James Marsland for Tower Hamlets Council said Ms. Begum had applied to go on the council’s social housing register in 2011 because she was living in overcrowded accommodation with her family. This would have given her three points on the housing list.

In her original application Ms. Begum said that “Our home is currently overcrowded, I’m sharing with two other people” and “Our room consists of bunk beds and another bed. I struggle to study in the circumstances and do not get privacy.”

Mr Marsland said that during three distinct periods Ms Begum did not inform Tower Hamlets housing department of significant changes in her circumstances in an attempt to gain a council property.

Apsana Begum MP canvassing with Cllr. Abdal Ullah.

Trial Day 2

Ms Begum’s defence lawyer Helen Law said her bids for council housing could have been made not by her but by her partner, Tower Hamlets councillor Ehtashamul Haque (Labour, Blackwall & Cubitt Town).

A Tower Hamlets Council anti-fraud specialist Lino Messouri, confirmed that Ms Begum’s application for social housing stated that her family home had three bedrooms. Records showed that applications made by her aunt in 2009 and her mother in 2013 stated that the home had four bedrooms.

He also agreed that an application in Ms Begum name continued to make bids after she moved out to live with Mr Haque on May 21, 2013, until March the following year.

The Poplar and Limehouse MP moved back to her family home on October 23, 2015, and she later reached the top of the housing shortlist.

Apsana Begum maiden speech in Parliament

Trial Day 3

As part of his investigation anti-fraud specialist Lino Messouri checked historical payroll records for Ms. Begum’s previous employment record and found that she had been employed in four different roles in Tower Hamlets Homes.

The court heard that as a housing advisor with Tower Hamlets Homes between 2013 and 2014 Ms. Begum was first point of contact for residents contacting Tower Hamlets Homes.

In the application for that role Ms. Begum cited her experience dealing with housing complaints as an executive support officer in Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s office.

In an application for another role she wrote she wrote: ‘I am also well aware of the demand for affordable social housing to tackle overcrowding in Tower Hamlets as an inner London borough.’

While Mr Messouri found many emails in Ms. Begum’s official Tower Hamlets email account from residents concerning problems with overcrowded housing he found none from Ms. Begum that notified officials of the changes in her housing status as she was required to do as part of any tenancy agreement.

Ms. Begum has claimed that another allegedly fraudulent council house application had been made in her name by her partner without her knowledge.

Complaints to police

Ms. Begum states that she has reported two different cases of domestic violence to the police. The first time was in May 2013 when she reported her brother’s “controlling behaviour”.

In November 2016 she reported to the police that her ex-husband, Cllr. Haque, had been following her from work in his car after “constantly calling and texting saying he loved her and missed her”.

The case continues.

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As community journalists we do exactly what it says on our tin – we work for the community.

In Tower Hamlets, which covers most of London’s East End, that means we spend a lot of time investigating allegations of political corruption.

It is an unfortunate fact that the poorest local authority in the country is still beset by the highest levels of corruption.

As Love Wapping we were instrumental in exposing the electoral corruption of Mayor Lutfur Rahman.