Councillor cleared of fraud will quit role

A Conservative councillor has been cleared of allegations of electoral fraud - but announced he intends to quit after serving his term.

Councillor cleared of fraud will quit role

A Conservative councillor has been cleared of allegations of electoral fraud - but announced he intends to quit after serving his term.

Mohammed Munir, aged 58, of Thorpe Road, Walsall, claimed he had "suffered" since being accused of forging signatures on 11 voting applications ahead of the 2008 council elections.

The councillor for Palfrey ward in Walsall was found not guilty of 11 charges of electoral fraud yesterday at Birmingham Magistrates' Court after a two-day trial.

The allegations dated back to April 2008 when Munir said he visited flats above Palfrey Supermarket, in Milton Street, canvassing for potential voters.

He told the court he completed voting applications for a group of Indian tenants on their request, then handed them over to be signed. He later submitted them to the council but they were treated as suspicious and not processed.

A police inquiry was launched after Gulfraz Iqbar, owner of the supermarket and flats, reported to Walsall Council that the flats were unoccupied in April 2008.

Mr Iqbar admitted renting out the flats occasionally for short periods despite not declaring it to the council.

Prosecutor Mr Simon Orme suggested the flats had been unoccupied during April 2008 but Mr Dean Kershaw, defending, suggested illegal immigrants had lived there.

Handwriting expert Stephen Cosslett said he could not tell if Munir had signed the application forms. District Judge Shamim Qureshi raised concerns that voting applications could easily be carried around and given to anyone.

He also voiced concerns that Mr Iqbar had been allowed to keep temporary tenants without declaring it to the council and asked police to monitor the situation. Judge Qureshi added: "The question is did these 11 individuals exist or not? The court is not satisfied the prosecution has proved its case."

Councillor Munir, speaking after the hearing, said he thought there had been a plot against him. During the trial Allah Ditta, who had been a Labour candidate standing against his distant cousin Munir, refuted claims he tried to jeopardise his campaign.

"I have suffered so much," Councillor Munir told the Express & Star. "I will do my term and finish. I'm fed up.

"I never tell lies. If I wanted to rig the election why would I fill out the forms and sign myself?"

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