The Attorney General has said politicians need to "wake up" to the problem of corruption in ethnic minority communities.
Conservative MP Dominic Grieve, the Government's senior law officer, claimed some immigrants “come from backgrounds where corruption is endemic," and particularly singled out the UK's Pakistani community. "It is something we as politicians have to wake to up to,” he said.
Some south Asian communities, he alleged in an interview with the Telegraph, “come from societies where they have been brought up to believe you can only get certain things through a favour culture".
“One of the things you have to make absolutely clear is that that is not the case and it’s not acceptable,” he added. “As politicians these are issues we need to pay some attention to”.
Asked if he was referring to the Pakistani community in his comments, Mr Grieve, whose Beaconsfield constituency has a sizeable south Asian population, told the newspaper: “Yes, it's mainly the Pakistani community, not the Indian community. I wouldn't draw it down to one. I'd be wary of saying it's just a Pakistani problem.”
In the interview, Mr Grieve said electoral fraud in particular was an growing problem. He cited the example of Tory councillor Eshaq Khan, who in 2008 was found guilty of postal ballot fraud in elections in Slough.
Tory MEP Sajjad Karim, the party's legal affairs spokesman in the European Parliament, has however hit back at Mr Grieve’s comments, branding them “offensive”.
“As a member of the British Pakistani community myself, I found these comments to be offensive, divisive; I do think they were ill advised and I'm afraid the very general way in which Dominic is trying to make the points that he is making will have the net effect of being seen as purely populist in nature,” he told the BBC.
“If Dominic has got any individual specific points he wants to make in relation to voter fraud or anything of that nature that's quite a separate issue and can be looked at.
“But to try and generalise in this way and to paint all British Pakistani community members in a certain light, I'm afraid that is simply something that cannot be ignored and it is certainly not something that the British public at large will accept from Dominic at all.”
In the Telegraph's interview, Mr Grieve stated that he is “very optimistic” about the future of the UK and spoke of the “success” of immigrant communities in his constituency. “We have managed integration of minority communities better than most countries in Europe,” he said.
He has since moved to clarify his comments on corruption. “I am very clear that integration between ethnic communities in the United Kingdom has worked well and has delivered great benefits for all of us,” he said in a statement.
“The point I was making is that, as a law officer, it's my duty to ensure the rule of law is upheld, and one of the issues that I feel requires close attention is any potential for a rise in corruption to undermine civil society. I believe this is an issue which needs to be addressed calmly and rationally.
“I am absolutely clear that this problem is not attributable to any one community, as I know very well from my many years promoting community cohesion.”