The Charity Commission could open a new investigation into the now-defunct charity Atlantic Bridge if there was "significant evidence" that its trustees had acted dishonestly, the regulator’s chief executive told MPs today (25 October).
Speaking at the Public Administration Select Committee’s annual meeting to review the commission’s work, Sam Younger, its chief executive, said it could investigate the charity again if it was presented with evidence of "fundamental dishonesty".
He said: "There is a further area of possible investigation. It would be dependent on evidence and there would be a high hurdle of proof, but if we see significant evidence of fundamental dishonesty we could look at it again."
The charity, founded by former defence secretary Liam Fox and run by his associate Adam Werritty, was voluntarily wound up by its trustees in September.
In July 2010, the Charity Commission said its "current activities must cease immediately" because it promoted a political stance that was closely aligned with that of the Conservative Party.
Younger’s comments came in response to an allegation at the hearing from Paul Flynn, the Labour MP for Newport West, that the commission had let Atlantic Bridge "get off scot free" by allowing it to close down.
Flynn also said the regulator had failed to investigate properly a claim that the charity had used taxpayers’ money in the form of tax breaks to fund political activities.
Younger defended the decision to open a non-statutory investigation into Atlantic Bridge.
"The action the commission took was proportionate and was the right action to take as the regulator. Unless there is very compelling evidence of fundamental dishonesty, I think that is the right approach," he said.
Also at the hearing, Dame Suzi Leather, the commission’s chair, said the regulator was in talks with the trustees of Atlantic Bridge about what had happened to its remaining assets when it closed.
"Our understanding is that once it has paid its liabilities, it will be left with a very small amount of money," she said.
Leather said this money would be given to another charity with similar objects, and that if the commission knew where the money had gone it would make this information public.