An aid charity has been removed from the Register of Charities after two statutory inquiries found trustees failed in their legal duties. Two former trustees of the charity have been disqualified from trusteeship and senior management functions for a period of 8 years.
The Charity Commission’s investigations into Aid Convoy found “serious failures” of due diligence and governance put the charity’s property at undue risk.
In a report, published today, the regulator criticises the charity’s trustees for keeping inappropriate relationships after a charity representative was deprived of UK citizenship over connections to a proscribed terrorist organisation.
The Commission first launched an inquiry into Aid Convoy in 2013 after the charity failed to account for half of its spending, and the charity’s cash was seized by Police at UK borders.
The regulator found serious concerns about the charity’s financial management and took action to freeze the charity’s bank account. Further probes found severe weaknesses in the charity’s processes for ensuring monies and goods went to the people the charity was set up to help.
In 2016 the regulator issued an Order directing the then trustees to take steps to improve the charity’s governance and financial management. A second inquiry was opened in 2018 after the charity’s then trustees failed to comply with this Order.
The second inquiry found that the charity was handling donations of controlled substances, including morphine, without the required licence. These were collected in appeals for shipments to Syria but the trustees did not know what was included in containers and so could not account for the end use of donations or be sure that they did not fall into the hands of terrorist organisations.
The Commission’s concerns were further exacerbated when a former representative of the charity was deprived of his UK citizenship having been “aligned to an Al-Qaida aligned group”. When told to review the charity’s relationship with this individual the trustees told the Commission “this is not a decision we are willing to rush into”.
Interim manager appointed to take over charity
Due to the levels of misconduct and/or mismanagement within the charity the inquiry appointed an interim manager to safeguard the charity’s assets and review its future.
The trustees failed to cooperate with the interim manager, and, after concluding that the charity “had no viable future”, he transferred the remaining assets, including £12,218 of charitable funds to another charity before winding the charity up.
Aid Convoy was removed from the Register of Charities on 12 June 2020.
As a result of the significant evidence of misconduct and/or mismanagement, two trustees, Mr Mr Muhammed Abdul Mumin and Mr Asim Shafaq, were also disqualified for a period of 8 years from being a charity trustee or acting as a senior manager of any charity in England and Wales.
Tim Hopkins, Assistant Director of Inquiries and Investigations at the Charity Commission, said:
The action we have taken here, on behalf of the public, has protected the charity sector from further harm and held the responsible individuals to account. But this case highlights the damaging effects of trustees failing to properly safeguard or protect a charity from associations with terrorism. Ultimately the trustees did not honour the trust donors placed in them by giving generously to help people affected by the crisis in Syria.
Good governance is not a bureaucratic detail – it underpins the delivery of a charity’s purpose to the high standards required under charity law and which the public rightly expect. The trustees failed to live up to those standards, committing repeated acts of mismanagement and misconduct, and aligning the charity to individuals whose past conduct posed a threat to their charity.
Further evidence of the mismanagement of the charity is set out in today’s report, including:
• repeated non-compliance with legal duties to file accounts, and significant underreporting of the charity’s income – 40ft containers of clothing, tinned food, and medical equipment were omitted from annual accounts.
• False or misleading information was provided in an annual return from the charity. Providing false or misleading information to the Commission is a criminal offence under section 60 of the Charities Act 2011.
• The charity’s bank withdrew its services. The trustees failed to report this, and then acted in breach of the charity’s constitution by paying funds into trustees’ personal bank accounts.
The full report of the inquiry is available on GOV.UK.