Syria aid charity is being monitored by regulator

Charity Commission has concerns over Aid Convoy's use of charitable funds

A child at the Atma refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border
A child at the Atma refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border
  • This story was corrected on 29 October. See final paragraph.

The Charity Commission is monitoring an aid charity working in Syria over concerns about the use of charitable funds.

A spokeswoman for the regulator said it has an ongoing monitoring case into the London-based charity Aid Convoy "regarding trustees’ duties" and "the end use of charitable funds".

The commission’s Investigation and Enforcement Monitoring Unit focuses on three main risks: safeguarding beneficiaries, counter-terrorism, and fraud.

Aid Convoy, previously know as Aid Convoy 2 Syria, registered with the commission in September 2012. Its listed objects are the relief of financial need and suffering among victims of natural or other kinds of disaster.

The charity's website says that it is working on a number of projects on the Turkish-Syrian and Lebanese-Syrian borders, including a project that plans to buy a number of ambulances in Lebanon to assist the injured across the border and inside Syria.

A Sunday Times article yesterday said that supporters of the charity taking part in an overseas mission were stopped at Dover last year by Kent Police and that sums of money were seized.

A spokesman for Kent Police confirmed that it seized £36,066, €1,400 (£1,210) and $10,600 (£6,907) in cash from various people at the Port of Dover on 23 December 2012, but could not confirm any connection between the people from whom the money was taken and Aid Convoy.  "This money is the subject of an ongoing investigation by Kent Police.," he said.

A spokeswoman for the commission said the regulator began looking into the charity when it became aware of the Aid Convoy 2 Syria charitable appeal in March 2012. The commission corresponded and met with its organisers at the time, she said.

"The purpose of this was to advise the organisers of their legal duties as trustees of charitable funds and of the requirement for charities to register. In September 2012 the charity Aid Convoy (formerly Aid Convoy 2 Syria) was registered with the commission," she said.

One of the trustees of Aid Convoy, as listed on the commission’s website, is Moutaz Almallah Dabas. According to the Sunday Times, Dabas was arrested by British police in 2005 for alleged involvement in bombings in Madrid which killed 191 people in 2004. He was extradited to Spain in 2007 but was acquitted of the charges in 2011.

Emdadur Choudhury is also listed as a trustee of the charity. In 2011, Choudhury was found guilty of public order offences after burning poppies at a protest in west London on Armistice Day, according to the Sunday Times.

Usman Ali was also listed a trustee of Aid Convoy but resigned last month. The Sunday Times said that Ali was banned for life from a mosque in Woolwich, southeast London, after allegedly showing children footage of the 9/11 attacks and proclaiming "God is great".

A spokeswoman for the commission said: "We’re aware of media reports regarding the trustees, and a former trustee (who resigned on 26 July) of Aid Convoy. As we have an on-going case into Aid Convoy, it is not appropriate for us to comment further at this time."

The commission spokeswoman said it was also looking into a company called Syria Aid. According to Companies House, Mouhannad Almallah Dabas was appointed as secretary on Syria Aid in February this year.

The spokeswoman for the regulator said: "We are assessing whether any issues of regulatory concern arise in relation to the charities in receipt of funds from Syria Aid." She said the commission hoped to "clarify whether the organisation is charitable in law and ought therefore to be registered".

"In the meantime, we can’t speculate as to its legal status or comment further on our work on this case," she said.

The Syria Aid website sells pro-Syrian revolution merchandise with profits directly going to UK-based Syrian charities. 

The trustees of Aid Convoy have been contacted for comment by email by Third Sector, as they requested. No reply has yet been received.

  • The story originally said that donations to Cheshire-based Syria Relief could be made through the Syria Aid website. Waqar Al-Abbasi, head of public relations for Syria Relief, said his charity's name had been used without permission by Syria Aid. "One of our supporters reported this link to us and when we protested it was immediately removed. We have no connection with Syria Aid and no donations have been made to us through their website."

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