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Asian Mayor arrested for alleged benefit fraud

world Updated: Feb 03, 2010 10:16 IST
H S Rao
H S Rao
PTI
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An Asian-origin mayor of a London borough, facing allegations of benefit fraud, has been barred from wearing his robes and chain of office, with his responsibilities turned over to his deputy.

Bangladeshi-origin Omar Faruque Ansari, 55, representing Camden was arrested for alleged fraud and has now been bailed until next month.

Ansari, who has maintained he is innocent, was expelled from the Liberal Democrat group on Camden council after being bailed by police investigating whether he wrongly claimed thousands in disability benefits for a neck injury.

After he refused to quit as mayor, the council bosses held a meeting to ban him from mayor's parlour preventing him from access to his robes, chain or use of mayoral limousine.

The move will prevent Ansari from meeting Prince Anne at a function today and the Duke of Gloucester next week.

Under its constitution, Camden, which is ruled by a Lib-Dem-Tory coalition, cannot force Ansari to quit.

Instead it has reallocated his responsibilities to the Tory deputy mayor Lulu Mitchell.

He will continue to be paid 15,954 pounds special responsibility allowance and remains mayor until May.

Camden chief executive Moira Gibb, in a letter to councillors, said it was "untenable" for him to continue attending events as the borough's first citizen.

Police arrested Ansari and officers and officials from the Department of Work and Pensions questioned him last week. Ansari, who has had a heart bypass, was taken to hospital at the weekend with chest pains.

He was recovering in the Royal Free hospital.

He now sits as an independent councillor. Ansari receives 474 pounds a month in disability benefit arising from complications following an operation on his neck in 1995.

He also claimed incapacity benefit until it was stopped in 2006 when he became a councillor.

He told a local paper he was an "innocent man". "I have done nothing wrong. I have not broken the law. I have been a good mayor and I want to continue to serve Camden," he said.

According to the Evening Standard, Camden in a statement said: "While it is acknowledged that Councillor Ansari refuses the allegations which have yet to be proven, experience over the last few days has indicated that the current situation is detrimentally impacting upon the functioning of the mayoralty".