Three men who plotted a series of bomb attacks fraudulently claimed to be collecting money for the international aid charity Muslim Aid to fund their activities, police have said.
Irfan Naseer, 31, Irfan Khalid, 27, and Ashik Ali, 27, all from Birmingham, were convicted at Woolwich Crown Court in London yesterday of planning to set off up to eight explosive devices at an undecided location, in an attack they hoped would be bigger than the terrorist bombings of 7 July 2005.
A statement from West Midlands Police said the men used high-visibility vests and collection buckets carrying the Muslim Aid logos to fraudulently collect money to fund their activities.
The three men collected money in Birmingham in 2011 during Ramadan – a traditional time for charitable giving among Muslims – and received more than £14,000.
Police said most of the money collected was never donated to charity. The gang spent some money on a car and £9,000 was lost in making bad investments. Muslim Aid received only £1,500 of the money collected.
Michelle Russell, head of investigations and enforcement for the Charity Commission, said the conviction was "a clear signal" to anyone who abused the name of legitimate charities that they would be caught and brought to justice.
"It is abhorrent that these people abused the name and reputation of the registered charity Muslim Aid in this way and tricked the public, who gave money to these men thinking it would go to the charity and be used to help people in need," she said.
"Unfortunately, charities can fall victim to fraudulent individuals, which is why it is critical that trustees put in place necessary safeguards within their means to protect their charities."
According to the Charity Commission, it received a complaint from Muslim Aid in September 2011 after the charity was alerted by police to a volunteer who was continuing to fundraise without its permission.
The charity told the regulator that, in the light of the incident, it would be reviewing its policies relating to volunteer fundraisers. The commission was then satisfied that the charity’s trustees had put a suitable plan in place.
In a statement, Muslim Aid welcomed the convictions and said that it was a victim of this fraudulent activity. "Our volunteer policy adheres fully to legal requirements," said the statement. "We always obtain prior permission of the relevant authorities for street and door-to-door collections, and ensure that charity funds are used for their intended purpose.
"We would like to reassure the public that we have taken steps to improve the security of our street collections and branded property. We encourage our donors to check the credentials of collectors when they are approached for donations."