A campaigner who brought down corrupt mayor Lutfur Rahman is fighting against financial ruin as the disgraced politician announced he is running for election again, seven years after being kicked out of office in London.
Andy Erlam, 71, has been handed legal bills of about £1.4 million ($1.9m) from his lengthy fight to remove Mr Rahman, who rallied supporters with false claims of racism and Islamophobia to win office in the east London district of Tower Hamlets in 2014.
Bangladesh-born Mr Rahman was kicked out of office the following year and was given a five-year ban from politics after a court ruling that found that he manipulated the Bangladeshi population for his own electoral gains.
He was found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices and was accused of fostering division in the multicultural area, and running a ruthless and divisive campaign by painting his main opponent as a racist.
But the former solicitor announced on Monday that he was standing for the same job on May 5 under the banner of a new party that he set up, called Aspire.
“It would be a disaster for race relations if he was elected,” Mr Erlam said. “I think Mr Rahman is completely unfit for public office.”
He sought to claim back about £1.2m in costs from Mr Rahman. But the former mayor declared himself bankrupt months after he was removed from office.
Mr Erlam, a former political adviser, says the best he can expect to retrieve is £60,000 when all creditors have been dealt with.
He and his three fellow campaigners were praised for their courage by an election court judge for their dogged fight to prove allegations against Mr Rahman.
The four helped to expose malpractice including ballots being cast from false addresses and free food being supplied to voters from the Bangladeshi community in return for supporting Mr Rahman’s campaign.
The judge told the four that if they lost their case, they would have faced a “potentially devastating bill of costs which, unless they are very fortunate, may well bankrupt them".
Despite his victory in 2015, Mr Erlam said he had spent up to £100,000 on legal fees and is fighting through the courts to reduce other bills from other lawyers.
He has moved out of east London and hopes he will not be made bankrupt because of his fight.
“I have no regrets,” Mr Erlam said.
Mr Rahman was investigated by police but never charged with any criminal offence. He was struck off by the body that regulates the legal profession but remains free to run to become mayor again.
Announcing his candidacy this week, he said on Twitter: "I have never acted dishonestly but to those who think I didn’t exercise enough oversight over campaigners in the last election, I apologise."