Broad Green nominee ruled unfit to be director by judge
CROYDON LABOR IN CRISIS: The botched and failed selection process appears to have chosen as its candidate for election a person whose conduct was deemed “totally incompatible with his duties…” with a charity and “a flagrant breach of trust”.
EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES
The mess that has been the local Labor Party’s selection process for the local elections in May appears to be heading for another controversy, after research by this website found that one of their candidates is the subject of a High Court judgment which said his conduct on behalf of a Thornton Heath-based charity was ‘completely inconsistent with his duties as a fiduciary, constituting a gross breach of trust’.
Labor party officials and the candidate concerned, Ramaraj Rajagopal, refused to answer questions from the Inside Croydon whether details of the court ruling were disclosed during the selection process, as one would normally expect, or whether work was carried out as part of a thorough due diligence process.
Rajagopal is a well-known figure in the Tamil community of North Croydon. On October 23, he was declared the Labor Party’s approved candidate for the Broad Green ward, probably the safest Labor ward in the borough.
Rajagopal had been chosen by a democratic vote of Broad Green ward members alongside two of the key Labor council cabinet members who helped bring the borough to bankruptcy: Stooge Collins, for six years an enthusiastic deputy to the now leader discredited Tony Newman, and Manju Shahul-Hameed.
Corn Inside Croydon discovered that in March 2018, by court order, Rajagopal was kicked out of a community charity he helped set up, with a scathing judgment of his character handed down after a complaint was filed against him.
And further checks of official Companies House records show that Rajagopal’s most recent business conduct saw his company, Rajmal Ltd, heavily mortgaged and, until last month, facing mandatory delisting action for the no – compliance by its director with keeping accounts up to date.
The 2018 High Court case was transferred to the County Court in central London. The case had been brought by two other trustees of the Tamil Welfare Association (UK) and was allegedly based on the provisions of the Trustee Act 1925.
For three days, recorder Cheryl Jones heard testimony from both sides in what appears to be two decades of petulance and bad temper and claims and counterclaims between Rajagopal and some of her fellow trustees of the body of charity.
Judge Jones was clearly not impressed with what she heard from Rajagopal in her defence.
In 2001, the charity purchased a house in Thornton Heath to hold fundraisers and other events for the Tamil community. He was to become the Tamil Sangam of the region.
The house, at 15 Thornton Road, was paid for by public subscription among members, and with the considerable help of a £70,000 interest-free loan provided by…Croydon Council (which was nice of them).
Over the years, the house became the center of disputes between the trustees. In 2013, Rajagopal stages what passes, in charitable circles, for a Rebellion, holding his own version of an annual meeting at the same time as the “official” AGM, passing various motions to suit his purposes and, in the ultimate act of the takeover, having the locks changed on the house while his fellow administrators were busy in their own meeting.
After taking control of the property, Rajagopal also set up a company in 2015 to run and run the house as a community center.
Recorder Jones investigated six complaints about Rajagopal’s conduct as trustee.
She found herself against him six times.
At one point Rajagopal testified that he had written to Croydon Court stating that he had been allowed to manage the affairs of the house and the charity in any way he chose. “If that were the case,” Recorder Jones said in its written submissions, “it was a deliberate misrepresentation of the true position… Mr. Rajagopal had no authority to convene the AGM and no authority to inform the Court that he or someone else was duly elected.”
The judge said Rajagopal had “collaborated in establishing an adverse right to possession and use of property”.
She wrote: ‘He was instrumental in an exercise to exclude his fellow trustees from their proper duties and take complete control of the Trust’s property.’
Among the more select things she had to say in her summary, Recorder Jones noted, “I have no hesitation, in light of my findings, in concluding that Mr. Rajagopal cannot continue as trustee.
“Having made findings of fact in these proceedings and in the absence of other factual disputes relevant to my decision, nothing prevents me from using the S41 Trustee Act 1925 to remove him and replace him with another trustee.
“It’s not only timely, it’s absolutely necessary for the proper future management of this trust.”
Rajagopal was not found guilty of any criminal offence. So why is all of this relevant to someone looking to serve their community as a labor counselor?
Last week, a former Lambeth mayor was forced to resign as an adviser when his past caught up with him, as he faced serious questions over a slew of racist, Islamophobic and transphobic tweets from over a decade ago.
Labour’s official spokesman has apologized for the party’s failure to carry out a proper background check on Philip Normal in 2017 when he asked to be selected as a candidate, saying it was the candidate’s responsibility to declare anything that could discredit the party.
It therefore follows that for a candidate for selection in Croydon, particularly in a part of the borough with a large Indian population, some candor about involvement in a High Court case as recently as 2018 involving a house owned by a Tamil charity might be appropriate. . Unless, of course, the candidate wants to draw anyone’s attention to the fact that he was kicked out as a trustee of this charity.
The Broad Green ward is in Croydon North, the constituency represented by Progress MP Steve Reed OBE.
Last year, Reed and his constituency Labor decided to install one of his most trusted supporters, Joel Bodmer, as chair of the local Campaign Forum, the committee supposed to oversee the selection of candidates in Croydon.
It was the LCF that ensured that hard-working incumbent adviser Jamie Audsley was barred from running for re-election in May. It’s also the body trying to reverse the Democratic pick in the fringe Waddon ward of another councilor, Andrew Pelling, for that most heinous offence, speaking to Inside Croydon.
Inside Croydon contacted Bodger to ask what checks he had made to confirm that Rajagopal had no High Court skeletons hidden in his closet.
But Bodger refused to answer.
We also asked if Rajagopal mentioned on his application form that the judge said his “conduct was wholly inconsistent with his duties as a fiduciary, constituting a gross breach of trust”? If so, how did the Labor Party determine that Rajagopal was a fit person to potentially become a Croydon councilor in charge of handling vast sums of public money?
Bodger declined to answer.
We also asked Rajagopal if he forgot to mention to the members of Broad Green Labor who voted for him his little contact with the High Court.
But Rajagopal had not responded to us at the time of this report’s publication as to why a judge thought he was not a suitable person to be a trustee of a charity.
So instead, here’s the judge’s 30-page decision that was handed down in 2018… It really speaks for itself.
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