By our correspondent.
LONDON: A British Pakistani businessman has accused officers of Metropolitan Police, Immigration officers and Newham Council officers of discriminating against him in a long campaign of harassment and persecution. Mr Iqbal Sethi’s problems with the authorities started after a raid was conducted on his entertainment venue Jhankaar Club in East London where Pakistani, Indian and European performers worked.
A raid was conducted at the venue in September 2019 by dozens of police officers, immigration officers and local council officers in what looked more like a terrorism operation according to witnesses. British Pakistani Rokhsana Fiaz is the current Mayor of Newham.
Nothing illegal was found nor were any conditions of the entertainment license found to be breached. However, one performer from Pakistan, who after alleged pressure from Immigration officer Farzana Patel, accused Sethi of holding the performer against her will which led to Sethi being arrested.
But what followed since then has been a nightmare for the venue owner Sethi who, for 18 years, has had an untarnished reputation in the licensed trade sector, but was forced to temporarily close his club, in September 2019.
Sethi says things started going wrong when he made an official complaint about an “illegal search” by police Sergeant Stuart Murray who had recently been assigned to the East London licensing team.
“I have been discriminated against, persecuted and treated completely unfairly by everyone involved because the authorities wanted to make an example out of me presuming that I will not stand up for my rights, and against the wrongdoing,” Iqbal Sethi told this reporter.
“They wanted to teach me a lesson of what happens when an Asian businessman complains about White police officers,” he added.
Sergeant Murray already had a disciplinary record having recently received a final written warning for gross misconduct “for making comments of a sexual nature, requesting strippers to attend a party, allowing an overly-sexualised atmosphere to develop and for also neglecting his duties by not turning up to work for a number of weeks” but this did not deter him from what Mr Sethi describes as “spiteful and racist retaliation” against him.
In September last year, Sergeant Murray and his team made an application to the Newham Council and successfully managed to convince the Council’s Licensing Committee to suspend Sethi’s licence citing that Sethi was involved in human trafficking.
This was despite Sethi strenuously denying these allegations and stating that the Immigration officers had never made such allegations of him being involved in trafficking.
The only allegation made by the Immigration enforcement was of domestic servitude by one performer. This allegation centred around a Pakistani actress Rabica Sahar who Mr Sethi alleges was frightened and coerced into making false statements by Urdu speaking Immigration officer Farzana Patel from the east London Immigration and compliance enforcement team.
Mr Sethi has CCTV footage and audio recordings of Farzana Patel telling Ms Sahar false information about the nature of Sethi’s club. This included comments like “the club could forcibly make your drink alcohol and you do bad things” and that Patel did not “want that Sahar gets raped or something else bad happens to her” and that “ Sahar was very lucky that Patel found her now after she had only been here for a few days’.
Sethi says that ‘it was only after this hour long coercion by Patel that Sahar was eventually formally interviewed using a Home Office interpreter’.
It was three months later in January 2020 that a Home Office investigation concluded that there was no evidence that Sethi was involved in modern slavery and his licence was reinstated and his club re opened.
In documents, seen by this reporter, Sethi also questioned the ‘’independence of the Council’s licensing committee led by Cllr Wilson which Mr Sethi described as a “kangaroo court” for the police where police evidence is not scrutinized properly.
Sethi also alleges that the licensing committee turned a blind eye to several inaccuracies and contradictory evidence from Council Licensing Officer, Colin Hunt and police licensing officers. Sethi says “the Police evidence is now having to be scrutinized by the police professional standards unit because the licensing committee failed in their duties.”
In a quest for justice and to ensure no other Asian businessman in East London would face such behaviour, Iqbal Sethi set about facing his discrimination head-on.
Mr Sethi’s legal team, together with assistance from his newly appointed management team consisting of a former Met Police Borough Commander (and head of anti corruption) and a former Met Police Detective Chief Inspector, set about assisting Sethi to expose the individuals involved in the wide-scale corruption between many authorities.
This correspondent has seen evidence that currently five police officers have been served with Regulation 15 disciplinary notices and all are under investigation by the Met Police Professional standards unit with oversight from the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC). The police officers will have to answer to 37 counts of misconduct ranging from falsifying evidence, corruption, irregular practice, oppressive behaviour, discrimination, lying on a witness statement and misleading a Judge.
A spokesman for the Met Police has confirmed that “a complaint regarding the conduct of MPS officers has been received and is being investigated and that at present no officer has been restricted, moved or likewise and they continue to work in their current licensing roles”.A complaint is being pursued against Immigration officer Farzana Patel for coercing a witness, making false statements and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Newham Council has ordered an internal investigation on officials in the Council’s licensing department who Mr Sethi alleges have lied at licensing hearings and colluded with corrupt police officers.
A spokesman for the Newham Council said: “The council takes allegations of wrongdoing seriously and is committed to ensure that they are properly investigated”.