Charity struck off and trustees banned after almost £3m of aid went unaccounted for

Aid in Syria (Library image) (Photograph: Samer Bouidani/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Aid in Syria (Library image) (Photograph: Samer Bouidani/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A charity that sent aid to northern Syria has been removed from the register after it was unable to account for almost £3m of goods sent in a year. 

The Charity Commission said in a report about two inquiries into Aid Convoy that two of the charity’s former trustees had been banned from charity trusteeship after the regulator found misconduct and mismanagement in the running of the charity. 

Aid Convoy, which was registered with the commission in September 2012, was involved in the organisation of aid convoys to the border between Turkey and Syria. 

The regulator uncovered a series of examples of mismanagement over the course of two inquiries it carried out into the charity since 2013. 

These included repeated non-compliance with reporting requirements, significant under-reporting of its income, the provision of false or misleading information to the regulator, and the use of trustees’ personal bank accounts when the charity’s bank withdrew its services. 

The commission opened an initial inquiry in 2013 after two lots of cash belonging to the charity were seized by police at ports. 

This concluded in 2016, when the commission ordered the trustees to take steps to improve the charity’s management and governance process, specifically in relation to financial governance, due diligence and monitoring the end use of funds. 

But the commission opened a second inquiry in 2018 because of governance issues, including persistent failure to file the charity’s annual returns on time and concerns about whether the charity’s property could be accounted for. 

The regulator found that in the 2017 financial year, trustees said the charity had sent 48 containers of aid to northern Syria, valued at an average of £60,000 each, but could provide no adequate records of what was in these containers.

“This means that £2,880,000 worth of goods was shipped within that reporting year that could not be appropriately accounted for,” the commission said. 

An interim manager was appointed to run the charity in November 2019 to safeguard its assets and review its future. 

The regulator said the charity’s trustees did not co-operate with the interim manager, who decided the charity had no viable future and wound it up. 

The commission said that as a result of “significant evidence of misconduct and/or mismanagement”, two trustees, Muhammed Abdul Mumin and Asim Shafaq, had been disqualified from being a charity trustee or acting as a senior manager of any charity in England and Wales for eight years.

Tim Hopkins, assistant director of inquiries and investigations at the Charity Commission, said: "This case highlights the damaging effects of trustees failing to properly safeguard or protect a charity from associations with terrorism. Ultimately the trustees did not honour the trust donors placed in them by giving generously to help people affected by the crisis in Syria.

"Good governance is not a bureaucratic detail – it underpins the delivery of a charity’s purpose to the high standards required under charity law and which the public rightly expect.

“The trustees failed to live up to those standards, committing repeated acts of mismanagement and misconduct, and aligning the charity to individuals whose past conduct posed a threat to their charity."

The charity was removed from the charity register on 12 June.

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