Ashford councillor candidate Jem Cerit convicted of trying to rig election
Jem Cerit, who has been
convicted of trying to rig election votes
A wealthy Ashford businessman - and Conservative candidate - has
been convicted of trying to rig a local by-election.
Cengizhan Cerit, who ran Perfect Pizza in Ashford, had made
a bid to become a borough councillor using 50 fake signatures on
his registration form.
Landlord Cerit – known as Jem – planned to stand for Beaver Ward
in a by-election in the town in November 2011.
But his scheme to get elected by cheating was discovered because
of a simple spelling error involving a man called Arnold.
The Turkish property owner – who ran an empire of 68 houses with
more than 300 tenants – didn’t spot the mistake in the Electoral
Register – and that led to his downfall.
He was convicted by a jury of three charges of election fraud
and now faces a possible jail sentence on Friday.
Prosecutor Alex Chalk told Canterbury Crown Court: “This is a
case about misconduct in the democratic process.
“Cerit, a candidate standing for election, submitted electoral
documents to the Electoral Services Department knowing that the
signatures on those documents were false.”
Cerit, 47, of Primrose Drive, Kingsnorth had stood for election
in May 2011 and polled 335 votes – losing out to two other
candidates who polled 481 and 479 votes.
However four months later one of the councillors, Brendan
Naughton, died, which resulted in the need for a by-election.
When interviewed by the local Conservative Association on
October 25 he was selected as the party's candidate.
But when he filled in nomination forms anomalies were found in
the signatures. Two looked the same - with only a difference in the
spelling of a name.
When examined further, all bar one of the signatures on the
form were false.
Mr Chalk said a week before the deadline for applications to
vote by post, officials received a list of 200 names and addresses
in Beaver Ward wanting to register to make a postal vote.
He said: “The information on these lists were found to be
inaccurate because some of the individuals recorded as wanting
postal votes already had them, some of them were recorded on both
lists and other names were recorded as no longer being resident at
Canterbury Crown Court,
where Cerit's case was heard
The prosecutor told the jury that: “CCTV later confirmed that
the person who had delivered the forms was Cengizhan Cerit.”
An investigation was launched and police raided a first floor
office above Perfect Pizza at Bank Street in Ashford and Cerit was
He was a franchisee of the takeaway in Ashford until
He was asked where the signatures came from and told officers:
“I send the guys around to get those people to sign”.
Mr Chalk added: “When pressed on who the ‘guys’ were, he
mentioned Yanis or Cameron, adding later that ‘girlfriends’ might
have done so too.
“He said he had spoken to people on the forms and had said he
was standing as a councillor and he expected their support. He
stated that he had spoken to the individuals first and confirmed
that they were happy to vote, “ he claimed.
“Statements were later taken from 50 individuals, whose names
appeared on application documents for electoral registration by
post – most were East European, Polish, Latvian and Rumanian – and
they were able to confirm that the signatures on the documents were
fake, “ he claimed.
The prosecutor said police had also question “the guys”, who
included Cerit’s partner Oksana Nadeja, her sister Natalijia
Ivanova and seven others, and “all were able to state they had not
been asked to fill in, deliver or collect, application forms”
Father-of-two Cerit told the jury he earned more than £115,000 a
year running his company CC Properties Ltd.
He said he had studied civil engineering before studying
professional management, politics and law in the UK after arriving
here in 1989.
Cerit claimed he bought a house, did it up and sold it – and
then invested in other properties – amassing 58 homes.
Cerit, who denied the three charges, was remanded on bail until
his sentencing on Friday.
For more on this story, see this week's Kentish Express.
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