Published: February 1, 2010
EXCLUSIVE by RICHARD OSLEY
MAYOR of Camden Omar Faruque Ansari was taken to hospital by ambulance after suffering chest pains on Saturday night, just days after being arrested over benefit fraud allegations.
Cllr Ansari is recovering at the Royal Free in Hampstead where he has undergone several tests. He was questioned by police officers and officials from the Department for the Work and Pensions last Monday and later suspended from the Lib Dem group of councillors in Camden. He has not been charged with any offence by police and denies any wrong-doing. Despite claims that he had resigned from his post as Mayor, Cllr Ansari said last week that he would not step down.
"I am an innocent man," he said. "If someone has made a mistake over an allegation, it is their problem - not mine." The allegations do not relate to use of council funds and instead centre on payments he has received in relation to a neck injury. Cllr Ansari said: "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."
On Friday, council bosses met and decided that support services normally relied upon by the Mayor would be removed and deputy Councillor Lulu Mitchell would take over community engagements. There is no constitutional arrangement in which Cllr Ansari can be forced from office. He said he had hoped to be back at work on official mayoral business by the end of last week, despite calls from rival parties for him to step aside to concentrate on the case.
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Councillor Janet Grauberg said: "I visited Faruque on Sunday afternoon in the Royal Free Hospital. He told me that on Saturday he had been feeling unwell and suffering chest pains. He said that his doctor had visited him at home and then arranged for an ambulance to take him to the Royal Free, where he said he'd been undergoing various tests. I gave him a 'get well' card on behalf of the Group and we chatted for ten minutes or so. He obviously appreciated the visit and he asked me to send his best wishes to everyone. Clearly, this has been a very stressful week for him. We all wish him a very speedy recovery."
More follows later.