The Charity Commission has taken £15,000 from an organisation that was posing as a registered charity by using another organisation’s charity number after a statutory inquiry found it was failing to monitor funds sent to Syria.
In a report released on Friday, the commission said the money, taken from the Global Welfare Project, which was appealing for public donations to help people in poorer countries, particularly Syria, had been redirected to a registered charity.
The commission said it was contacted by West Yorkshire Police in 2014 about the organisation. It had had confirmed to the police that it was not a registered charity and that the commission had not received an application to register the organisation as a charity.
But the organisation’s website claimed it had charity status, the commission’s report said, and was displaying a registered charity number for a separate charity that was registered with the commission.
It was decided that the money raised by the organisation was for charitable purposes, the regulator said, and on 19 May 2014 it opened a statutory inquiry.
Two days later, five people connected to the organisation, including the trustees, were arrested and the organisation’s bank account was frozen. An application to register the organisation as a charity was also made.
Once the police investigation was completed in 2016 – with no charges brought – the commission resumed its inquiry. It focused on the organisation pretending to be a charity, and the possibility for public trust in charities to be damaged and charitable funds abused and/or misapplied.
The commission concluded that the organisation was misleading the public by allowing them to believe they were supporting a registered charity. The trustees said displaying the number that was on the website was done in error, according to the report.
There was also limited information on how the trustees would spend the funds donated to it, the commission said, and the trustees failed to verify how the charitable funds spent were then used, despite operating in war-torn countries such as Syria.
The commission therefore decided that there had been misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of charitable funds due to using another charity’s registration number and failing to maintain accurate records.
The website of the organisation had now been closed at the commission’s request, the regulator said, with the trustees having spent £17,900 of the £33,400 originally raised.
The remaining £15,500 was distributed to another charity operating in Syria, according to the commission.