Charity Commission drops case against chair of African charities

Chasing lost cash is 'not in the public interest', says regulator

The Charity Commission has concluded it would not be in the public interest to try to recover over £600,000 that should have been paid to two community charities in east London by their shared chair because the money has already been spent.

African Development Agencies and the Hackney African Organisation, which both said they provided legal advisory services in Hackney, won a joint legal claim in 2000 for almost £610,000 in unpaid grants from the London Borough of Hackney.

The funds were paid into the personal account of Dr Adu Aezick Seray-Wurie, the organisations' chair. However, the commission heard allegations in 2004 that the funds had not been paid to either charity. Both the charities had annual incomes below the £10,000 threshold for submitting accounts and have since been closed down.

A formal inquiry by the regulator, which ran from September 2004 until March 2007, found that the funds had not been paid to the charities and it did not appear that they had been used to further the organisations' charitable purposes.

Bank statements indicated the cash had been used to pay off an overdraft in another of Seray-Wurie's accounts, with most of the rest being withdrawn, sent abroad or used for apparently non-charitable purposes such as magazine subscriptions and the payment of parking fines.

Seray-Wurie gave conflicting accounts of both how the funds were used and who owned the offices the charities occupied, and was unable to provide documentation to support any of his claims.

The commission concluded that he had failed to act in a "reasonable manner" and permanently disqualified him as a trustee in January 2007, having already suspended him at the beginning of the investigation.

The police declined to take any action and the commission concluded that taking legal action against Seray-Wurie would not be in the public interest.

The inquiry report says: "Although there was a strong case to demonstrate Dr Seray-Wurie's breaches of trust in respect of the funds, the costs would be high and the prospects of successfully enforcing judgement against Dr Seray-Wurie were low. The money had been spent."

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