The monitoring of links between charities and extremism has been slammed as “totally unacceptable” after a weapons cache was found by police in a Bangladeshi orphanage, allegedly run by a British charity.
MPs and anti-extremist campaigners said the Charity Commission had shown naivety after it emerged the charity at the centre of the row was run by a man who had twice been charged and cleared of terrorism offences, and served a jail sentence for a firearms conviction.
Faisal Mostafa, 45, a chemist from Stockport, Greater Manchester, was arrested after the raid on Tuesday. Hundreds of grenades, along with guns and ammunition were found in the orphanage on the southern island of Bhola, allegedly run by his Manchester-based charity, Green Crescent.
Despite his history, Mr Mostafa was allowed to register the charity in 1998. Laws governing the running of charities, overseen by the Charity Commission, state anyone “convicted of an offence involving dishonesty or deception” should be ineligible to act as a charity trustee.
But with more than 190,000 charities registered in the UK, involving about one million trustees, the commission said it relies on tip-offs from the public rather than the labourious process of vetting charity workers itself. It also does not have general access to the Police National Computer, preventing it from checking the backgrounds of charity workers.
Patrick Mercer, the Tory chairman of the Commons Counter Terrorism Sub-Committee, said that the Charity Commission needed to be given stronger powers by the Government.
“It is clearly highly respected, but this monitoring work is just the sort of thing that is crucial. We cannot have convicted criminals or people with links to terrorism involved in this sort of activity.”.
A spokesman for the Charity Commission said: “The Commission expects charities to report any serious incidents to them involving serious allegations about trustees, and failure to do so is a serious concern.”
There are a number of charities in the United Kingdom whose function, transparently, is to fund terrorism. If the Charity Commission seriously leaves the policing of these networks to (a) the charities themselves and (b) members of the public, this is a dismal business. Terrorist funders are hardly going to turn themselves in. And a number of these charities hire very expensive libel lawyers to deter concerned members of the public from making their suspicions known. Even when the Charity Commission is given clear evidence of involvement in the funding of terrorist organisations, it performs a lacklustre and slow investigation, which involves little or no independent research of their own, and no following of obvious leads.
The Charity Commission relies on leads from the public does it?
Well, how about this. Here is the Ummah Welfare Trust. On its website, it carries a photograph which is prima facie evidence that it works closely with a Hamas front. That is a criminal offence in the United Kingdom.
The Al Salah Islamic Association has been identified by the US Treasury as part of the Hamas funding network. Come on Charity Commission. What more evidence do you need. Shut the Ummah Welfare Trust down today.
The problem is that the Charity Commission proceeds on the basis that charities are run by good people who only need a little guidance to ensure that they comply with charity law. But when a charity is run by terrorists and extremists, advice like this only assists them in disguising their true nature, so that they can continue to receive the public subsidy that results from the tax breaks that they receive.
We shouldn’t be giving terrorist financing charities tax breaks. We should be spending that money on detecting and policing terrorism.
What we need is a Charity Commission with teeth. When there is a reasonable suspicion of terrorist funding, the charity should be shut down. The Commission must also form a joined up part of the Government’s anti-terrorism and anti-extremism policy.