Broad Green candidate was ruled by judge not fit to be trustee

CROYDON LABOUR IN CRISIS: The botched and bungled selection process appears to have chosen as an election candidate someone whose conduct was found to be ‘wholly incompatible with his duties…’ with a charity and ‘a blatant breach of trust’.
EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

Passing judgement: Ramaraj Rajagopal (right) as pictured with Stooge Collins and Manju Shahul-Hameed after their selection for Broad Green ward last October

The omnishambles that has been the local Labour Party’s selection process for May’s local elections looks to be heading for another controversy, after research conducted by this website discovered that one of their candidates is the subject of a High Court judgement that declared that his conduct on behalf of a Thornton Heath-based charity was “wholly incompatible with his duties as a Trustee, being a blatant breach of trust”.

Labour Party officials and the candidate concerned, Ramaraj Rajagopal, have refused to answer questions from Inside Croydon about whether the details of the court ruling were ever disclosed during the selection process, as might normally be expected, or whether any work was done in a thorough due diligence procedure.

Rajagopal is a well-known figure in the Tamil community in the north of Croydon. On October 23 last year, he was declared an approved Labour Party candidate for Broad Green ward, probably the safest Labour ward in the borough.

Rajagopal had been chosen by a democratic vote of members in Broad Green ward alongside two of the senior Labour council cabinet members who helped to bankrupt the borough: Stooge Collins, for six years an eager deputy to the now-discredited leader Tony Newman, and Manju Shahul-Hameed.

But Inside Croydon has discovered that in March 2018, by order of the court, Rajagopal was kicked out of a community charity he had helped to set up, with a withering judgement of his character handed down after a claim made against him.

Something to declare: the 30-page judgement on the Tamil Welfare Association case, that ended badly for Rajagopal

And further checks of official records at Companies House show that Rajagopal’s more recent business conduct has seen his company, Rajmal Ltd, heavily mortgaged and, until last month, facing compulsory strike-off action for its director’s failure to file up to date accounts.

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 would rely on the provisions of the Trustee Act 1925.

Over three days, Recorder Cheryl Jones heard evidence from both sides in what appears to be two decades of petulance and ill-temper and claims and counter-claims between Rajagopal and some of his fellow trustees of the charity.

Unfinished business: how Croydon LCF’s Joel ‘Bodger’ Bodmer announced Ramaraj’s selection, when he couldn’t even get the spelling of the candidate’s name correct

Judge Jones was clearly not impressed with what she heard from Rajagopal in his defence.

In 2001, the charity had bought a house in Thornton Heath from which to run fund-raising and other events for the Tamil community. It was to become the Tamil Sangam for the area.

The house, at 15 Thornton Road, was paid for through public subscription among the 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 focus for disputes between the trustees. In 2013, Rajagopal staged what passes, in charity circles, for a coup d’etat, organising his own version of an annual meeting concurrently with the “official” AGM, passing various motions to suit his ends, and in the ultimate act of the takeover, having the locks changed on the house while his fellow trustees were busy in their own meeting.

Having seized control of the property, in 2015 Rajagopal also established a company to manage and run the house as a community centre.

Recorder Jones considered six complaints about Rajagopal’s conduct as a trustee.

She found against him six times.

At one point, Rajagopal gave evidence that he had written to the court in Croydon to state that he had been given consent to conduct the affairs of the house, and the charity, in his chosen manner. “If this was the case,” Recorder Jones said in her written findings, “it was a deliberate misrepresentation of the true position… Mr Rajagopal had no authority to call the AGM and no authority to inform the Court that he or anyone else was duly elected.”

The judge said that Rajagopal had “colluded in setting up an adverse right to possession and use of the Property”.

She wrote, “He was instrumental in an exercise designed to exclude his fellow trustees from their proper functions and to gain complete control of the Trust property.”

Among the choicer things she had to say in her summing up, Recorder Jones noted, “I have no hesitation, in light of my findings, in concluding that Mr Rajagopal cannot continue as a Trustee.

Not to be trusted: part of Recorder Cheryl Jones’s withering conclusions about Rajagopal’s conduct as a trustee

“Having made findings of fact in these proceedings and there being no further factual disputes which are relevant to my decision, there is nothing to prevent me using S41 Trustee Act 1925 to remove him and to replace him with an alternative trustee.

“It is not only expedient, it is entirely necessary for the future proper management of this trust.”

Rajagopal has not been found guilty of any criminal offence. So, why is any of this relevant to someone seeking to serve their community as a Labour councillor?

Last week, a former mayor of Lambeth was forced to quit as a councillor when his past caught up with him, as he faced serious questions over a slew of racist, Islamophobic and transphobic tweets from more than a decade before.

Labour’s official spokesperson excused the party’s negligence to do a proper background check on Philip Normal in 2017 when he applied for selection as a candidate, stating that it had been the candidate’s own responsibility to declare anything that might bring the party into disrepute.

It follows, therefore, that for a candidate for selection in Croydon, particularly in part of the borough with a large Indian population, some frankness over 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 didn’t want to draw anyone’s attention to their having being kicked out as a trustee of that charity.

Broad Green ward is in Croydon North, the constituency represented by Progress MP Steve Reed OBE.

Last year, Reed and his Constituency Labour Party moved to get one of his most trusted supporters, Joel Bodmer, installed as the chair of the Local Campaign Forum, the committee that is supposed to oversee candidate selections in Croydon.

This is the LCF which ensured that hard-working sitting councillor Jamie Audsley was blocked from standing for re-election in May. It is also the body which is trying to reverse the democratic selection in the marginal Waddon ward of another councillor, Andrew Pelling, for that most heinous offence, speaking to Inside Croydon.

Not much Progress: MP Steve Reed

Inside Croydon contacted Bodger to ask what checks he had done to confirm that Rajagopal had no High Court skeletons lurking in his cupboard.

But Bodger refused to respond.

We also asked did Rajagopal mention on his application form that the judge had said his “conduct was wholly incompatible with his duties as a Trustee, being a blatant breach of trust”? If so, how had the Labour Party determined that Rajagopal is a fit person to, potentially, become a Croydon councillor responsible for handling considerable amounts of public money?

Bodger refused to respond.

We also asked Rajagopal whether he had forgotten to mention to the Broad Green Labour members who voted for him about his little brush with the High Court.

But Rajagopal had not got back to us by the time of publication of this report to offer his explanation for why a judge thought he was not a suitable person to be the trustee of a charity.

So instead of that, here’s the judge’s 30-page ruling that was handed down in 2018… It sort of speaks for itself really.

Read more: Boycotts and resignations in rows over Labour selections
Read more: More Labour disarray as BAME councillors Wood and Ali quit
Read more: Labour councillor was given ‘no real reason’ for deselection

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in 2022 council elections, Broad Green, Charity, Croydon North, Manju Shahul Hameed, Ramaraj Rajagopal, Steve Reed MP, Stuart Collins and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Broad Green candidate was ruled by judge not fit to be trustee

  1. I think there are a lot of people in Croydon who are sick of Steve Reed MP’s continuous meddling and invariably making things considerably worse. The guy is a liability and is costing Labour dearly.

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