Men jailed for stealing millions from charity Astonbrook Housing Association

Michelle Russell, head of investigations and enforcement for the Charity Commission, says the case shows how effectively the police, the commission and other agencies work together

Michelle Russell
Michelle Russell

Six men who stole millions of pounds from the defunct asylum seekers charity Astonbrook Housing Association have been jailed for between 15 months and four and a half years.

The men, including Mohammed Arwo, former chief executive of the Birmingham-based charity, were found guilty of stealing £1.8m over a period of several years. But West Midlands Police’s economic crime unit believe that more than £6m may have been stolen.

Arwo, 54, of Waldrons Moor, Birmingham and Abdillahi Abdi, 55, of Greenway Street, Birmingham, were both sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday to four and a half years in prison for conspiracy to defraud, and disqualified from being a director of a company for 10 years. They were also banned from being charity trustees.

Four other men from Birmingham and London were sentenced to lesser terms after being found guilty on charges of money laundering.

The charity was paid several million pounds by Birmingham City Council and the UK Border Agency, which should have been used to house asylum seekers. But police said that Arwo and several others used much of the money to make out cheques to themselves and companies they controlled. More than £1m was sent to bank accounts in Dubai in Arwo’s name.

Police began investigating the charity in 2007 after an investigation by the UKBA and the city council found irregularities in its activities. Following a raid by more than 70 officers, the Charity Commission opened a statutory inquiry into the charity and appointed interim managers to run it. The charity was placed in liquidation in 2009, a process that is still ongoing.

Michelle Russell, head of investigations and enforcement for the Charity Commission, said: "This case shows that how effectively the police, the Charity Commission and other agencies work together to catch those who abuse charities. Now that criminal proceedings are concluded, we will look at any outstanding regulatory issues relating to our inquiry and publish a report once it is completed."

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