The Charity Commission has ordered a forces charity to stop fundraising after a television documentary allegedly showed its fundraisers falsely claiming they worked for free.
The regulator said it had opened a statutory inquiry into Support the Heroes after undercover footage in a BBC documentary broadcast last week allegedly showed the charity’s fundraisers saying that every penny they raised went to the cause, when this was not the case.
The commission last week said it had opened an inquiry into another charity featured in the programme, called The Great Military Charity Scandal, after anti-islamic and Nazi merchandise was found on sale in a shop run by the charity 1st Knight.
The commission confirmed today that it had directed Support the Heroes to suspend fundraising activities until further notice and had issued a freezing order on assets held directly by the charity or on its behalf.
A spokesman for the regulator said it was the first time it had publically reported on using one of the new powers granted under the Charities (Protection & Social Investment) Act 2016, which became law in March.
The power used in this case, to direct a charity not to perform a certain action, was granted under section 84a of the act. This can be used if the regulator has opened an inquiry into a charity and considers that an action might constitute misconduct or mismanagement in the administration of the charity.
The act says that when such an order is in place the regulator must review it at least once every six months.
The commission spokesman said the inquiry into Support the Heroes would investigate public concerns about fundraising activities conducted on the charity’s behalf, and the management of conflicts of interest and arrangements with a professional fundraiser.
"The decision to open the statutory inquiry follows on from the commission’s recent preliminary investigation into the charity’s activities," he said. "A further public statement will be made in due course."
Support the Heroes raises funds to pass to other charities that treat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. It had an income of £119,473 in the year to the end of March.
The charity said in a statement on its website that people had been spreading false accusations about the charity in an attempt to discredit its work.
The statement said the organisation was not a "fake charity" and was "not and never has been a fraud charity".
It said: "All contributions are accounted for, none are or ever have been misappropriated. We have first-class accountants and lawyers."
The statement said the charity and its trustees were not connected to any other charitable organisation or fundraising company.
The charity did all of its own fundraising and had never used a professional fundraising company, it said.
"To those few of you who are being evil and vindictive, check the facts and stop telling lies about us," it said.
"There are many rogues out there so please go after them and leave us in peace."