Birmingham & Black Country

Fraud allegations against two Sandwell councillors referred to police

Sandwell Council House
Image caption The council said it "worked extensively to get to the bottom of any alleged wrongdoing as promptly as possible"

Fraud allegations against the former deputy leader of Sandwell Council have been referred to police.

The award of 10 council houses since 1997 "seemed to all benefit members of Councillor [Mahboob] Hussain's family", the council said.

"Patterns of behaviour" looked like "conspiracy to defraud and/or misconduct in a public office", a council investigation report said.

Mr Hussain said the accusations were "purely politically-motivated".

The report further alleged another serving councillor, Babu Singh Bawa, and Mr Hussain "benefitted from a unique Compulsory Purchase Order [CPO] pilot scheme".

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Both men expressed an interest in land in 1998 which became the subject of an exclusive bid for self-build plots a year later, the council said.

'Bid suppression'

The only bids the council said it received for the plots in September 1999 were from St Paul's ward councillor Mr Bawa and Mr Hussain and their immediate family members.

For one plot, the four bids received were all from Mr Hussain and members of his family, according to the report.

"The bids gave the impression of potential cover pricing and bid suppression," the authority said.

Mr Hussain said the allegations were an attempt to "smear" his character and the council had published allegations which had "not been properly investigated".

He said he would "cooperate fully with any investigation because he had done nothing wrong".

The council said Mr Bawa later failed to declare his role as a councillor when a planning application was submitted on his behalf in October 2007.

Mr Bawa has not yet responded to a BBC request for comment.

The report said a separate potential alleged code of conduct breach should be looked into further by the council.

In February 2011 former economy chief councillor Ian Jones asked for a property to be removed from a public auction at the request of the then-council leader, now deceased, Darren Cooper and instead be sold to a family member of Councillor Mohammad Rouf at a price "significantly below" what it was eventually sold for under a sealed bid process a year later - also to a relative of Mr Rouf, the report said.

Mr Jones said he had had "no opportunity to see or understand any evidence of the allegations against him" before Wednesday's report and questioned the council's "impartiality in any investigation" as information he had previously provided "had not been pursued".

There was also a "breach of the council's financial regulations and procedures" due to an informal arrangement between former borough mayor Derek Rowley while he was a serving councillor, and a member of the public to sell four council-owned containers from Jubilee Park in Tipton, according to the council.

"Conflicting information" over the sums involved, and the fact both Mr Rowley and a former employee were no longer involved with the council, meant "there may be little advantage to be gained from pursuing this matter further at this stage", the report said.

"No fault" was meanwhile found in the actions of another councillor, Stephen Frear, over the award of a three-bed council house to him.

Oldbury ward councillor Mr Hussain and Mr Jones stood down from the borough's ruling cabinet after an earlier investigation into alleged irregularities in the sale of the council's former properties.

West Midlands Police confirmed the allegations were referred to the force on 3 January and were being reviewed. The BBC has contacted councillors Frear and Rouf.

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