An “election fraudster” ran an illegal campaign through a series of Whatsapp groups where his allies boasted about collecting hundreds of “dodgy” votes, a court has heard.

Israr ‘Izzy’ Rashid, 41, of Hobart Close, in High Wycombe, is on trial at Amersham Law Courts accused of cheating a council by-election in February 2019.

The former Labour candidate is accused of “harvesting” postal votes himself and through his co-conspirators, specifically targeting Asian residents, and fraudulently casting them in his favour.

In Whatsapp messages shown in court yesterday (Tuesday) Rashid’s allies boasted about collecting hundreds of “dodgy votes”, and the defendant himself appeared to talk about forging signatures.

Israr Rashid has pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud.

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Following his arrest just days before the election, police found a phone in Rashid’s bedroom. After gaining access to the phone, police found multiple Whatsapp group chats where postal votes were discussed.

On the phone, police found 420 messages in various group chats that were relevant to their investigation.

Showing these messages to the jury, prosecutor Guy Ladenburg described how in the chats, Rashid’s campaigners boasted about gathering hundreds of “dodgy” postal votes.

Mr Ladenburg showed jurors messages on a group chat called Friends of WMMT Group, of which Rashid was a member. In the chat, other members appeared to be bragging about how many votes they were securing for Rashid.

The messages read as follows:

Saj Tiger: “We c who bring moor vote fr Izzy yu me or Rabani and General.

Hafiz Zulfiqar: “Yes we’ll see I have over 150 genuine votes in Totteridge. No dodgy postal votes.”

Later messages show other members of the group promising to gain Rashid more postal votes, argued Mr Ladenburg.

Ali Arrow: “I hope you play your roll as much as you are a keyboard warrior with your 150 postal votes as you promised me now theses postals should be done as promised to israr sahib

Hafiz Zulfiqar: “I remember my 150 votes but you must remember your 500 votes excluding family members. Inshah Allah we will cross the finish line.”

After reading out these messages to the jury, Mr Ladenburg said: “We see a distinction between genuine votes and ‘dodgy’ postal votes.

“It’s a very handy summary of what is going on. Postal votes is what this election is all about.

“So much for one person, one vote.”

Bucks Free Press: The trial is underway at Amersham Law Courts [PA Wire]The trial is underway at Amersham Law Courts [PA Wire]

According to the prosecutor, Mr Rashid and his co-conspirators knew full well that they were breaking the rules by doing what they were doing.

Pointing to messages in another Whatsapp group titled “Management”, Mr Ladenburg read out a message from a contact named Ad Hkh.

It said: “Delete all media related to postals from your library don’t keep anything.”

Near to the deadline for sending postal votes, another contact named Farooq sends a photo to another group chat of six voting packs in his hand with the caption “six more beauties.”

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In another message, this time from Rashid himself, Mr Ladenburg suggests the defendant admits to forging a signature on a ballot paper.

The message from Rashid reads: “Salaam need to pst faiz postal vote need his signature…Can u send me a pic I can do signature.”

Commenting on this message, the prosecutor said: “If Faiz was in possession of his postal vote, as he should have been, he could have signed it himself.

“Instead it is in the possession of the defendant, who arranges to be sent a photo of his signature so he can forge it.”

Showing a final set of messages to the jury, Mr Ladenburg produced a Whatsapp conversation between Rashid and a contact called ‘Speedy’.

The messages read:

Rashid: “Any chance u can spare 1 hour at 6pm tomorrow

Rashid: “Knock some voters on Hicks Farm rise plz cant get to everybody

Speedy: “I can but me and you should not be involved in this process at all. I told you that.

Speedy: “We can do non-Asian households where we are only requesting support

Rashid: “Yes agreed hicks farm and windrush.”

Mr Ladenburg insisted that these messages further indicated Rashid’s guilt.

He said: “Why shouldn’t the defendant and Speedy be involved in this process? Because this proves it is a criminal enterprise and it makes obvious sense for the candidate not to be incriminated by the harvesting of votes.

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“The messages show that the defendant’s electoral strategy is divided into two parts. The first way, for non-Asian households, is simply to ask for support. That is what campaigning in an election is, or rather what it should be.

“The second, and criminal part of the electoral strategy is reserved for Asian households, which goes beyond ‘only requesting support.’

“To use the group’s terminology, the second way is the submission of ‘dodgy postal votes.'”

Rashid's phone number was included in all of the Whatsapp groups quoted by Mr  Ladenburg.

In a police interview, Rashid claimed that other people also had regular access to the phone found in his bedroom, and denied all wrongdoing.

Mr Ladenburg argued that this was not the case, pointing to multiple occasions where Rashid identified himself in messages using that phone number.

Israr Rashid is charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud. He denies the charge against him.

The trial continues.

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