Ken Livingstone has written to the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith calling for an investigation into whether former leader of Westminster City Council, Dame Shirley Porter, committed perjury during the investigation into the ‘homes for votes’ scandal.
Dame Porter was surcharged by the District Auditor for the millions of pounds that were lost to Westminster City Council taxpayers as part of the policy of selling council homes at a huge discount to potential Tory voters.
The High Court later ruled that she should pay a surcharge of £43,321,644 however Dame Porter initially claimed to have assets totaling just £300,000. She later agreed to pay Westminster Council a settlement of £12.3 million after revelations about her hidden wealth were broadcast by the Today programme.
The Mayor’s intervention follows a report in the Evening Standard that Dame Porter has recently bought a Mayfair flat estimated to have cost £1.5 million, having previously lived abroad.
In his letter to Lord Goldsmith, the Mayor says
‘If it is correct that Dame Porter has chosen to reside in Britain it seems to me that there is now a powerful case to be made that she should face charges for perjury – or any other relevant offence – and I ask that your office act urgently to establish whether this should be the case.
‘Until now Ms Porter has lived abroad and it has therefore not been possible to pursue this aspect of her case. There is no longer such a constraint.
‘I would ask that there be an urgent investigation into whether Dame Porter has committed perjury or any other offence at any stage in her court evidence and/or affidavits during the ‘homes for votes’ scandal.
‘In its judgement on the case of 19 December 1997, the Court of Appeal Criminal Division found that Ms Porter had lied in her evidence to them given under oath, just as she had lied to the Auditor.
‘Londoners will have been stunned by Dame Shirley Porter’s attempts to evade paying her surcharge, including her claim to the courts that she was worth just £300,000, her claims that she had disclosed the full nature of her financial wealth and her settlement of just £12.3 million of a £48 million debt owed to the taxpayer.
‘It is essential that Londoners have confidence in democratic institutions and in the decision-making process and that all avenues are pursued to uphold the integrity of local government.
‘Throughout the homes-for-votes scandal there was a suspicion that Shirley Porter hid her real fortune. Since the announcement of the partial settlement of her surcharge there have been strong grounds for believing that she misrepresented the scale of her wealth in order to escape the full cost of her debt.
‘Given that Dame Porter has chosen to purchase a property in London and is therefore presumably likely to be available for investigation I would ask that you urgently look into taking steps to bring this matter to a conclusion.’