The Charity Commission has 37 active cases dealing with regulatory issues or concerns around charities raising funds for or operating in Syria, according to William Shawcross, the regulator’s chair.
That number is an increase from 10 in February, according to Shawcross, who gave an interview in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph.
"Charities can be abused, people working along the Syrian border can be abused, for Islamist or extremist purposes, there is no question about that – sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly," Shawcross told the newspaper. But he said that "most Muslim charities are run by good people".
It is "often very difficult" to ensure that aid and money sent to war zones did not end up in the wrong hands, Shawcross said, and that there was a risk that money donated to UK charities was going to Islamic State fighters.
"If we find any evidence of it happening through charities, we will pursue it robustly in conjunction with the police and other law enforcement agencies," he said.
Shawcross said that there were about 500 charities in England and Wales that said they operated in Syria in one form or another, and that 200 of those had been registered since the Syrian conflict began.
He said the regulator was particularly concerned about those 200. "Some of them are inexperienced and obviously more vulnerable to exploitation than bigger more established charities, the household names."
Shawcross’ interview appeared two weeks after the commission was given £9m of additional funding and promised new powers to fight extremist abuse of charities and other non-compliance and mismanagement in the sector.