Commission strikes asylum seekers charity from register

A legal advice charity for African asylum seekers has been removed from the register and its chair has been suspended after the Charity Commission discovered a raft of governance failures.

The commission was contacted two years ago after African Legal Advisory Services, whose income in 2004/05 was just under £28,000, was banned from providing immigration advice by immigration services after evidence of financial malpractice at the charity was discovered.

Two former trustees also alleged that their signatures had been forged on minutes and accounts submitted to the commission by founding trustee and chair Samba Gambamba.

The commission found that Gambamba was the dominant trustee and made extensive unauthorised use of the charity's bank account for his own purposes. Gambamba was unable to prove his claim that he had loaned the charity £17,000 and admitted he had been wrong to borrow £2,500 to repay a personal debt and cover it up with false documentation.

He was unable to account for nearly £18,000 withdrawn from the charity's account over 16 months and admitted spending nearly £5,000 of the charity's money on personal business trips. He claimed the charity's failure to submit adequate accounts since 2005 was because of the seizure of its records by its landlord after it failed to pay its rent.

The commission froze the charity's accounts and suspended Gambamba as a trustee. It also reported the fraudulent documents he submitted to the police. It removed the charity from the register because it was not operating, had minimal funds and was banned from carrying out a significant part of its objects.

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