No regulatory concerns at Nowzad, commission says

The regulator has closed its compliance case into the charity behind Operation Ark


The Charity Commission has cleared the animal charity Nowzad of wrongdoing after looking into its governance and finances.

The charity came to national prominence in the summer of 2021 when it started evacuating animals and people from Afghanistan following the fall of the country to the Taliban, a procedure it called Operation Ark.

The commission opened a compliance case into Nowzad in September last year, after concerns were raised about how the charity was run.

The regulator said in a statement today that its work with the charity: “Did not identify any regulatory concerns about Operation Ark, concluding that it did fall within the charity’s purposes.

“The commission concluded that the objectives of the operation were made clear to donors during fundraising, that trustees’ decision-making and actions during that time were reasonable, and that consequently it was valid to spend funds raised for Operation Ark on the evacuation of animals and staff from Afghanistan”.

The compliance case did not look at the role of the government in Operation Ark. Media reports have previously claimed that the Prime Minister intervened to accelerate the evacuation of cats and dogs stuck in Afghanistan, something the government has denied.

Nowzad has always insisted that evacuating animals was never prioritised over evacuating people.

The commission has passed on advice to Nowzad’s trustees about its ongoing work in dangerous conditions overseas.

Pen Farthing, chief executive of the charity, returned to continue work in Afghanistan this week, according to social media.

In a statement posted on the social media platform Twitter, Farthing described "11 months of stress".

"What you don’t know is as well as press issues the charity commission launched a case against Nowzad [in] Aug 2021," he said.

"It concluded today Jul 2022 [and] obviously no wrongdoing to be found (they investigated so much more than just #operationark)"

Tracy Howarth, assistant director of casework and proactive regulation at the Charity Commission, said: “We take all concerns raised with us seriously and will always assess them impartially and expertly against the commission’s own criteria and the law.

“In this case, we did not find evidence of wrongdoing and recognised the trustees’ ongoing efforts to manage the charity under difficult circumstances.

“The commission exists to support trustees to meet their legal duties and responsibilities, as well as to take action where we find problems.

“To this end, we have provided Nowzad’s trustees with guidance to help ensure they respond appropriately to the uncertainty and challenges they now face."

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