A Liberal Democrat election candidate submitted dishonest applications for housing improvement grants, dramatically exaggerating illnesses supposedly suffered by him and his wife, in order to improve his house at the expense of Birmingham City Council, a court heard yesterday.
Saeed Aehmed obtained £16,000 to which he was not entitled with a view to paying for a ground floor bathroom, an extra bedroom and other improvements at 91 Bevington Road, Aston, it was claimed.
The allegations were put at the closing stages of an election court hearing into a petition brought by Mr Aehmed in which he claims to have lost the 2007 city council election in Aston as the result of a Labour smear campaign.
He said leaflets distributed before polling day stating that he had been sacked as the Labour candidate for Aston in 2002 after failing to give satisfactory answers about the grant applications amounted to an illegal practice under the Representation of the People Act.
The leaflet was published by Muhammed Afzal, the successful Labour candidate in Aston. Coun Afzal's supporters are also accused of falsely stating that Mr Aehmed had been arrested for postal vote fraud.
Mr Aehmed denies any wrongdoing in applying for benefits.
Gavin Millar QC, for Coun Afzal and the Labour Party, said four grant applications were submitted by Mr Aehmed and his wife between 1986 and 1997.
Application forms listed a range of illnesses, including arthritis, bronchitis, bad legs, severe back pain, asthma, depression and high blood pressure. Mrs Aehmed was also said to be suffering from depression and in need of a walking frame to get around the house.
Mr Millar said there was no medical evidence to suggest Mr Aehmed or his wife suffered from debilitating illnesses, even though Mr Aehmed has claimed incapacity benefit continuously since 1982.
After obtaining about £8,000 from the council in 1986 for a downstairs toilet and damp proofing, Mr Aehmed submitted two further grant applications in 1993 claiming to be incontinent and unable to dress himself. He wanted funding for a downstairs shower, central heating and washing machine. Mr Millar added: "When these attempts failed to realise the whole amount of grant which he sought, he contrived a similar application in his wife's name.
"This again dishonestly exaggerated her symptoms of physical disability in order to obtain grant monies from Birmingham City Council."
He said Coun Afzal's case was that Mr Aehmed wanted public funds to pay for a downstairs bathroom so the bathroom upstairs could be turned into an extra bedroom. When all the work was complete, the house was transferred to Mr Aehmed's son.
Mr Millar pointed out that the 1997 grant application, in Mrs Aehmed's name, bore a remarkable similarity to Mr Aehmed's previous applications.
Mrs Aehmed was said to suffer from depression, severe back pain, pains in the legs and feet, to be physically and mentally ill and unable to walk, but there was a "startling" lack of medical evidence to back this up.
Mr Millar went on: "It would be too much of a coincidence that in January 1997 Mrs Aehmed suddenly developed the same sort of extreme physical disabilities that her husband was claiming in 1993 enabling her to claim the same improvements he wanted in 1993."
Records from the City Road Hospital referring to Mr Aehmed were submitted showing that in 1993 doctors found him "not unduly short of breath" and able to clean and dress himself well.
A consultant physician concluded there was "no significant organic cause for his complaint" and suggested the symptoms were psychosomatic.
Mr Aehmed's claim to have taken steroid tablets for 15 years was challenged by Mr Millar, who pointed out no GP records to substantiate the allegation had been produced in court.
The case continues.