Luton’s deputy mayor and the Labour Party have apologised for ‘any embarrassment caused’ to the town’s top cop after he posed for pictures at the mayor-making ceremony with her fraudster brother-inlaw.
Councillor Asma Rathore said she ‘regrets’ not telling Chief Superintendent Mike Colbourne, Bedfordshire Police’s Luton Divisional Commander, he was being filmed with Ahmed Siddique at the Town Hall civic event on May 23.
Siddique and his wife, Shagufta, who live in Luton, were convicted in 2009 of obtaining more than £160,000 through fraudulent activities.
Labour councillor Rathore has admitted to an “error of judgement” in not informing Mr Colbourne of Siddique’s background before they posed for pictures together at the ceremony, which was videoed by online community news and events TV channel www.tvbedfordshire.com Cllr Rathore, who had no involvement in her relatives’ crimes, said: “I would regret any embarrassment caused to Mr Colbourne. If he comes to us, I would apologise if pictures are in the paper and there is a big hoo-ha about it.
“If it was to happen again, I’d let Mr Colbourne know about it because I don’t want anyone to be ashamed of something they didn’t know about. But if it’s embarrassing to the council I wouldn’t let it happen in the future. I made an error of judgement.
“Ahmed is my husband’s brother, it’s family.
That’s the only event he’s been to. It was a big day for me and my family. I know he has a past, but he’s served his punishment.
“We don’t keep looking at the past. Ahmed raises money for charity abroad, and helped pay for ambulances in Pakistan.” The Siddiques were given suspended prison sentences for fraudulently claiming £10,628 in housing benefits and £3,695 in council tax benefits.
The couple gained £162,205 through their illegal activities, which included buying a property in Leagrave Road through a fraudulently- obtained mortgage, and were ordered to repay £26,695 to Luton Borough Council.
Labour Party organiser Francis Steer said: “In my opinion Cllr Rathore was very unwise to allow herself and Ahmed Siddique, who has been convicted of fraud, to pose for a photo with Chief Superintendent Mike Colbourne.
“I know that Mr Colbourne would have been happy to pose for a photo with the Deputy Mayor, so I would like to apologise for any embarrassment that this might have caused him or the police.
“Nobody is suggesting that Cllr Rathore used her newly-elected position of Deputy Mayor to obtain a photo of Mr Colbourne and Mr Siddique together.” Earlier this year Cllr Rathore survived an investigation by the Labour Party for not disclosing her family connections to her cousin, Luton sham marriage ringleader Ashar Ali Rathore, who was deported to Pakistan, and the Siddiques during the candidate selection process in the run-up to last year’s local elections.
She said she “did not realise” she had to inform the party of any issues which could cause potential embarrassment to them.
A police spokeswoman, who confirmed that Mr Colbourne does not know Siddique, said: “Senior officers all attend civic ceremonies throughout the county during each year representing the force.
“This occasion was no exception and as with all such ceremonies a wide number of the general public are also in attendance with photographs being taken on a regular basis.
“As in this case it is not possible to know everyone at these functions or their personal backgrounds.”
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