Trial of Poplar and Limehouse MP Apsana Begum opens

The trial of Poplar and Limehouse MP Apsana Begum on charges of “dishonestly obtaining council housing” has opened.

She faces three indictments of fraud, and is accused of failing to disclose information to Tower Hamlets Council in applications during three separate periods between January 2013 and March 2016, Snaresbrook Crown Court has heard.

The cost to Tower Hamlets Council was almost £64,000 because someone else on the housing list had to be given accommodation elsewhere, the court heard.

Prosecutor James Marsland 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 – a circumstance which he said gave her three points on the housing list.

“Over three distinct periods, she deliberately and dishonestly did not inform Tower Hamlets housing options of significant changes in her circumstances, in order to gain a social housing tenancy,” he alleged.

2021... Apsana Begum at a housing demo in Canary Wharf in May

2021… Apsana Begum at a housing demo in Canary Wharf in May

– Credit: Mike Brooke

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The 31-year-old MP, who won the seat for Labour in the 2019 general election, attempted to gain social housing in the first period by claiming she lived in an overcrowded three-bedroom house with her family and did not have a bedroom of her own, the prosecutor said.

This made her “a higher priority” in the social housing queue.

However, the property had four bedrooms, according to a social housing application made in 2009 by Ms Begum’s aunt, who also lived in the house.

Mr Marsland said Ms Begum moved into a different property with her then-partner Ehtashamul Haque in 2013, without informing the council, where she lived for more than two years.

Ms Begum “must have had a good understanding of the social housing system and how it operated” because she worked for Tower Hamlets Homes, a public organisation set up to work with the council to arrange social housing.

Her work, including a role as a housing adviser, meant she had “significant involvement” with how social housing is allocated, Mr Marsland alleged.

People can be on the waiting list “for years since demand for social housing outstrips supply”, he added.

Ms Begum had previously said she “vigorously contests these malicious and false allegations” and formally pleaded not guilty to all charges in court.

The trial continues – it is expected to run for six to eight days.

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