Inquiry opened after charitable funds were held in bank account of person under terror investigation

The Charity Commission says it has concerns that not all the funds held by the individual had been returned to Jerusalem Merit

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into a charity that supports refugees from the Middle East after its funds were held in the personal bank account of an individual who had been under police investigation for alleged terrorist financing offences.

The regulator said in a statement today that it had begun the inquiry into CAWRM, known as Jerusalem Merit, which was founded last year to support the Iraqi refugee community in Jordan.

The commission opened the inquiry after a compliance visit highlighted serious regulatory concerns, including that the charity’s funds had been "held in the personal bank account of an individual linked to the charity, at a time during which the individual was under police investigation for terrorist financing offences", and that "not all of the funds held by the individual had been repaid to the charity".

The regulator said it would also look into "unexplained large payments to a limited company whose sole director is the individual linked to the charity".

The commission did not name anybody in connection with the inquiry, but the charity has Canon Andrew White, the so-called "Vicar of Baghdad", as an ambassador.

White, who served as vicar of St George's Church in Baghdad between 2004 and 2014, is a well-known figure in the Anglican community.

He was the subject of a counter-terrorism investigation by Scotland Yard after claims were made that he had paid Islamic State to secure the release of sex slaves, but the investigation was dropped last year.

The Christian aid charity the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, which was founded by White, who is no longer involved with it, has also been the subject of a Charity Commission investigation since 2016.

The commission said today that it also had concerns about charitable funds belonging to Jerusalem Merit "being put at risk by the couriering of significant amounts of cash out of the UK to the Middle East, with approximately £45,000 transferred in this manner in the first half of 2018".

The regulator will also examine concerns about the unauthorised employment and remuneration of a trustee. It said it had issued an order restricting certain transactions that trustees could enter into without the commission’s prior consent.

The commission said its inquiry would examine matters including whether the charity’s funds had been spent solely for charitable purposes, the administration, governance and management of the charity by trustees, and whether trustees had complied with their duties under charity law.

Nobody from the charity responded to a request for comment before publication of this story.

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