Former mayor is charged following vote rigging probe

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A SERVING city councillor and a former Peterborough mayor have been charged with vote rigging.

A SERVING city councillor and a former Peterborough mayor have been charged with vote rigging.

Cllr Abdul Razaq, of Alexandra Road, Millfield, and former mayor Raja Akhtar, who lost his Central Ward seat in the May elections this year, have both been charged with forgery.

A third man, Mohammed Khaliq (49), of Foxdale, New England, was also charged at Bridge Street Police Station yesterday.

Akhtar (51), of Newark Avenue, Millfield, is the second former city mayor to be charged in connection with Operation Hooper – a probe into alleged vote rigging in the 2004 election.

Mohammed Choudhary, who has already been charged, was due to appear at Peterborough Crown Court today.

Choudhary, who was mayor from May 1996 to 1997, has denied charges including defrauding election officers by submitting false postal ballots and making a false instrument, namely a poll card in connection with alleged vote rigging during the city council's 2004 elections.

The 47-year-old, of Cobden Street, Peterborough, along with Labour Party official Tariq Mahmood (39), of Clarence Road, Peterborough, and Maqbool Hussain (50), of Ledbury Road, Peterborough, who unsuccessfully stood in Central Ward at the 2004 local elections, have already been charged with conspiracy to defraud and forgery. They are set to stand trial at King's Lynn Crown Court in October.

Yesterday Razaq (47) was charged with six counts of forgery, Akhtar with five counts of forgery and Khaliq with one charge of forgery. All charges relate to forging poll cards.

The three men went to Bridge Street police station yesterday where they were arrested and charged.

All three have been released on conditional bail to appear before Peterborough Magistates' Court on September 11.

Today, Central Ward councillor Razaq was suspended from the Conservative group on the city council pending the outcome of the case.

A city council spokesman said that Razaq could lose his seat if he is convicted.

Operation Hooper was launched by Peterborough police in June 2004 following concerns about the way the local election was conducted in Central, Park and Ravensthorpe wards.

Dozens of people were questioned by a team of detectives led by Detective Inspector Ian Tandy.