Probed charity says regulator has provided 'totally unsatisfactory' responses

Jerusalem Merit is being investigated by the Charity Commission, which says some of the charity's funds were held in the personal account of someone who had been investigated for alleged terrorist financing offences

The trustees of a refugee support charity that was announced yesterday as the subject of a Charity Commission inquiry have criticised the regulator for providing "totally unsatisfactory" and sometimes contradictory responses to their requests for support.

The commission said it had opened an inquiry into CAWRM, known as Jerusalem Merit, after its funds were held in the personal bank account of someone who had been under police investigation for alleged terrorist financing offences.

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.

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.

In a statement responding to the commission’s announcement, the trustees of the charity, which was founded last year to support the Iraqi refugee community in Jordan, said they were disappointed by the regulator’s actions.

The statement said that some of the claims in the regulator’s statement about the opening of the inquiry were inaccurate, although it did not specify what these were.

"One of the strategic objectives of the Charity Commission is ‘giving charities the understanding and tools they need to succeed’," it said.

"As trustees we have made many requests for guidance and leadership, yet we can only identify three occasions when the commission has responded.

"On each occasion the answer has either been totally unsatisfactory or has conflicted with information that it has provided."

The statement said the charity relied heavily on White as an ambassador, "without whom the charity would not exist".

It said: "His global presence has enabled funding to come from across the world and these have helped towards educating children, feeding and clothing refugees and also enabling health and medical care."

It added that the trustees acknowledged that, though there were "some initial shortcomings beyond our control, the trustees are of the opinion that there are now adequate governance and controls in place".

It said: "As part of the statutory inquiry we, the trustees, are reviewing performance, competencies and communication levels and will make recommendations for improvement."

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said it was aware of the comments made by the charity's trustees. 
"Our statement of 10 January remains unchanged; we cannot comment further at this time so as to avoid prejudicing the outcome of the inquiry," she said. 

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