MORE than six months after a pair of â€˜cowboyâ€™ Indian undertakers admitted failing to pay more than Â£30,000 rent to Kirklees Council, not a single penny has been recovered.
Current Dewsbury South Labour councillor Abdul Patel and former Batley councillor Ghulam Maniyar have raked in sums thought to exceed Â£800,000 â€“ and counting â€“
during their 25 years running a private funeral directorâ€™s business on a piece of Kirklees-owned land.
A scathing council report last September found they ignored virtually all of the terms of the lease.
The men failed to register as a charity or as a business, never kept a register of all the bodies â€“ a matter still being investigated by police â€“ and ran up an estimated Â£31,000 in rent arrears by virtue of simply ignoring demands for payment.
Senior Kirklees director Martin Dearnley also stated that their
shoddy management of the burial ground would cost Kirklees a further Â£50,000 in lost revenues.
Patel and Maniyar purported to be running the burial ground adjacent to Dewsburyâ€™s main cemetery on behalf of the districtâ€™s mosques.
They had to call a meeting of Muslim elders where they admitted to having around Â£300,000 in a private bank account, income on which it appears no tax has been paid, or the money even declared. They have admitted handling significant numbers of cash transactions.
Coun Patel owns two post offices and a large portfolio of properties. Former Labour councillor Maniyar is a successful restaurant owner.
HMRC are still investigating their burial business, which caused further controversy when it emerged that bereaved Pakistani families were being charged significantly more than Indian families.
Kirklees Council director Martin Dearnleyâ€™s report last September was withering of the authorityâ€™s failures in letting the rogue traders carry on regardless, blaming a succession of Kirklees staff and entire departments of turning a blind eye because of â€œcultural sensitivitiesâ€.
When The Press approached Mr Dearnley in January he said: â€œProgress is being made in implementing the recommendations made in the reportâ€ and â€œthe rent arrears negotiations have not yet been concluded.â€
However more than two months on, Kirklees has done absolutely nothing to recover the money.
A spokesman for Kirklees Council Chief Executive Adrian Lythgo said simply: â€œWhile we are making progress on these discussions, they are still ongoing and we cannot comment further at this stage.â€
Former Tory councillor Khizar Iqbal raised concerns about the operation before he was ousted in last Mayâ€™s local elections by Abdul Patel â€“ a ballot mired by widespread allegations of postal vote fraud.
Mr Iqbal said yesterday: â€œThat sounds to me like yet more Kirklees Council shorthand for â€˜weâ€™ve done nothingâ€™.
â€œI am absolutely disgusted that Kirklees have failed to enforce any action against the Muslim Mosque Burial Committee after six months since the audit report was completed.
â€œBy failing to act I believe they have set a precedent for serious, hard-working local people, who can say â€œif they can withhold money, why canâ€™t we? Why is the MMBC treated differently from us?â€
He added: â€œKirklees have clearly failed to discharge their duty to protect public money they are custodians of. I am referring this matter to the Audit Commission and the Secretary of State with a view to officers being surcharged for their negligence.â€
Meanwhile Mr Iqbal is putting the finishing touches to his evidence to a House of Commons Select Committee which is looking into electoral fraud.
... but when ex-employee Jo protested, council threatens court proceedings in days
A FORMER Kirklees employee who withheld repayment of a council loan in protest at the Muslim Mosque Burial Committee scandal was promptly threatened with court action by the council.
Slimming World consultant Joanne Jackson, of Thornhill, was made redundant by Kirklees in 2010 after working for 10 years as a community personal adviser, helping
troubled and vulnerable young people.
When she left, Joanne had an outstanding car loan via her former employers which she kept paying until the last instalment in January.
But when she saw that Labour councillor Abdul Patel and his MMBC colleague Ghulam Maniyar still hadnâ€™t paid a penny of the estimated thousands they owe Kirklees, she decided to make a stand.
â€œI only had Â£126 balance left on the loan, but I withheld it,â€ she said. â€œWhen Kirklees rang to ask why, I told them. The men running the Muslim burial ground owed tens of thousands and the council simply hasnâ€™t bothered them for it. Why should there be one law for these men and one for the rest of us? It is scandalous.â€
Kirkleesâ€™s response was immediate â€“ they said they were taking her to court and that it would impact on her credit rating.
â€œIâ€™ve had to pay it,â€ she said. â€œI canâ€™t risk it jeopardising my credit status.â€