The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into a humanitarian aid charity that works in Syria after thousands of pounds of cash belonging to the organisation was seized by port officials on two separate occasions.
The regulator said it had opened the inquiry into Anaya Aid, which has the object of providing international humanitarian aid during emergency situations, after the charity ignored a warning from the commission that it should not try to take large amounts of cash across borders.
The commission said in a statement today it was told by police in December 2015 that a trustee and a former trustee of the charity had been stopped by UK port officials and about £5,000 of cash belonging to the charity had been seized.
The regulator said that, although the funds were returned, it warned the charity about the risks involved in couriering large sums of charitable funds.
In February, the commission and police issued a warning to charities telling them to avoid cash couriering because of the risks involved.
But the commission said that, in April 2017, it was told by police that the same trustee had again been stopped by UK port officials and cash totalling €23,000 (about £20,300) and £1,500 had been seized.
The regulator said the funds were subject to a cash detention order and were at risk of loss in the event of a successful forfeiture application by police.
The commission said it had also carried out three compliance visits to the charity because of a range of regulatory concerns, "particularly in relation to the charity’s work in Syria and the partners it has used".
The regulator said: "The trustees have put charity funds at risk of loss on a number of occasions and have failed to comply with the commission’s regulatory advice and guidance."
It said it had issued an order under section 84 of the Charities Act 2011, directing the trustees "to take specific actions within set timeframes" and issued a further order under section 76(3)(f) of the act, restricting certain transactions that the trustees can enter into without the commission’s prior consent.
Anaya Aid had an income of £418,347 in the year to the end of February 2016, according to its entry on the Charity Commission’s online register, up from £72,052 in the previous year.
The commission said the inquiry would examine such issues as whether the trustees had put the charity’s funds at risk by allowing a trustee of the charity to carry the charity’s funds in cash while travelling in a convoy; the inability of the trustees to adequately account for the end use of the charity’s aid; and trustees’ failure to comply with regulatory advice and guidance from the commission.
The charity did not respond to a request for comment from Third Sector.