A Labour MP has gone on trial accused of defrauding a council in east London out of £64,000 by “deliberately and dishonestly” withholding personal information in order to “jump the queue” and get a council flat.
Apsana Begum, the MP for Poplar and Limehouse, was given the flat within four months rather than having to wait the usual three years, Snaresbrook Crown Court was told on Wednesday, 21 July.
Begum, 31, denies fraud related to periods between January 2013 and March 2016, which the London Borough of Tower Hamlets claim they were deprived of £63,928 in rent.
Labour MP Apsana Begum is on trial for jumping the council housing queue. Rishi Sunak owns 12 houses, Robert Jenrick owns four and Jeremy Hunt 'failed to declare' the bulk purchase of seven luxury flats.— David__Osland (@David__Osland) July 21, 2021
Prosecutor James Marsland said: 'In July 2011, Ms Begum applied to join the social housing register for London Borough of Tower Hamlets. She remained on the register until 7 March 2016 when she was awarded the tenancy of a studio flat”.
He said her application was based on the fact that “she was living in overcrowded conditions” in her family home.
But Mr Marsland said her personal circumstances changed several times between 2011 and 2016, including a period when she moved out of her family home and lived with her new husband, but she failed to notify the housing department, knowing it would harm her chances of getting a council flat.
He said: “She withheld the information in order to gain a social housing tenancy. The defence response, in a sentence, is that at no point was she acting dishonestly. She said she kept London Borough of Tower Hamlets informed as best she could, including whilst going through some difficult moments in her life, including in relation to her family and partner”.
Mr Marsland said Begum used to work as a housing adviser with a charity, Tower Hamlets Homes, and would have known exactly when to contact the housing department.
My statement on the Nationality and Borders Bill pic.twitter.com/wS1WdpYDeY— Apsana Begum MP (@ApsanaBegumMP) July 20, 2021
The prosecution will claim she made several fraudulent council house applications, although she will insist they were made without her knowledge by her “controlling” former husband, Ehtashamul Haque, from whom she is now separated.
Begum denies three counts of fraud, and the court heard she “vigorously contests these malicious and false allegations”.
The trial is expected to finish next week.