By RICHARD OSLEY
Camden Mayor Omar Faruque Ansari told the New Journal this morning (Tuesday) that he will clear his name after being questioned by benefit fraud investigators yesterday. But in the meantime, he has decided to step down from his position as the borough's first citizen.
As the New Journal reported exclusively on its website last night (CLICK HERE), Cllr Ansari has been suspended by the Liberal Democrat group pending the outcome of the investigation by the Department of Work and Pensions. The case relates to benefit claimed for a neck injury and is not connected to council funds. He has stepped down as Mayor to concentrate on clearing his name. He is currently on police bail until March.
Cllr Ansari said: "I am an innocent person. I haven't done anything wrong." He said the Lib Dem group were following party rules in suspending him. "The Lib Dems are not angry with me, and I am not angry with them but (council leader) Keith Moffitt has to do what's right for the safety of the party. I have been receiving benefits for my neck. I had all the tests and it was the DWP who said I was entitled to receive benefits," said Cllr Ansari.
It is now expected that deputy mayor Councillor Lulu Mitchell, from the Conservative group, will take over the mayoralty. "I have to put the borough of Camden first - not myself," said Cllr Ansari. "I have to keep my dignity. The best thing for the borough, to avoid embarrassment, is for me to step down while this investigation is going on. I am still a councillor. This investigation isn't about politics."
A police statement said a 55 year-old man had been arrested in connection with the case but Cllr Ansari said he was not arrested and volunteered to answer questions. "They asked me if I would answer questions and we went to Holborn Police Station," he said. "You can't be questioned at the Town Hall or at your home, so we went to Holborn. I was not charged. They had a video camera and a tape recorder, the equipment they needed was at the police station but I was not arrested. I was very surprised this happened. It was new to me and the police said it was a first for them. I was not scared because I know I haven't done anything wrong."
He said that he was not angry with officers for stopping him at the Town Hall. "That is where I was, so that's where they came to speak to me," he said. "It is an embarrassment to be honest but not cross. Everybody has a job to do. They have received an allegation, I haven't a clue who from. They will find I have done nothing wrong."