Wealthy businessman Cengizhan Cerit jailed for trying to rig by-election in Ashford
Cengizhan Cerit was
convicted of trying to rig election votes
by Alex Claridge
An Ashford businessman who tried to cheat his way to a seat on
the borough council has today been jailed for a year.
Cengizhan Cerit forged signatures on electoral documents in
order to be nominated as the Tory candidate in for a by-election in
Beaver ward in November 2011.
Sentencing the property landlord at Canterbury Crown Court,
Judge Adele Williams said: "This was a fraud which struck at the
heart of democracy. You tried to corrupt the legitimate electoral
Cerit, of Primrose Drive, Kingsnorth, denied three charges of
electoral fraud, but was convicted following a trial.
The 47-year-old, who goes by the name Jem, was undone by a
spelling error involving a man called Arnold.
Alex Chalk, prosecuting, 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."
The landlord, who owns more than 50 houses and has more
than 300 tenants, had stood for election in May 2011 and polled 335
votes – losing out to two other candidates who polled 481 and 479
However, four months later one of the councillors, Brendan
Naughton, died - sparking a by-election.
When interviewed by the local Conservative Association on
October 25, Cerit 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 but one of the signatures on the form
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
CCTV later confirmed the person who had delivered the forms
was Cengizhan Cerit.
An investigation was launched and police raided a first floor
office above Perfect Pizza in Bank Street, Ashford, and
Cerit was arrested.
He was a franchisee of the takeaway until April last year.
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.
"This was a fraud which struck at the heart of democracy. You tried to corrupt the legitimate electoral process..." – Judge Adele Williams
"Statements were later taken from 50 individuals, whose names
appeared on application documents for electoral registration by
post – most were rastern European, Polish, Latvian and Romanian –
and they were able to confirm that the signatures on the documents
The prosecutor said police had also questioned "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
Judge Williams told Cerit: "These forgeries were crude, but such
was your arrogance that you thought you could get away with it. You
sought to blame others - employees and your girlfriend - but there
was only one person responsible and that was you.
"You sought to interfere with legitimate electoral process of
our democracy. This is a very serious matter indeed."
The court heard father-of-two Cerit 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 dozens
DC Stuart Champion, from Kent Police, said "It was a
long and complicated case and we are pleased with the result.
"We want to the send the message out that you just can't do this
and it will not be tolerated."
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