Two people have been disqualified from acting as charity trustees after more than £200,000 of funds raised to help Rohingya refugees went into their personal bank accounts and almost £70,000 was likely to have been spent privately, according to the regulator.
An inquiry report published by the Charity Commission today said Mohammed Hasnath and Ruksana Ali began fundraising in 2017 with the aim of helping Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and Bangladesh.
The pair used the online fundraising portals GoFundMe and YouCaring to solicit donations, but the commission found the sums raised were going to six personal bank accounts and a PayPal fund owned by them.
The commission said the fund was not registered as a charity, but its stated purposes made it charitable, with Hasnath and Ali as the de facto trustees.
The regulator said that when it opened a statutory inquiry in 2018 there were no governance or financial controls to protect and use the funds raised and that the sums raised had been mixed with personal money in the accounts.
The commission said that more than £68,700 of charitable funds could not be properly accounted for “and was likely to have been used as non-charitable private expenditure by the former trustees”.
The regulator said: “The former trustees’ failure to implement any governance or financial controls made it impossible for them to ensure that charitable funds were protected or applied and this amounts to misconduct and/or mismanagement.”
The regulator said it had removed both trustees from the fund and disqualified them from acting as trustees or holding a senior management function at a charity.
It said it had transferred the remaining £196,529 raised by the fund to two registered charities that support Rohingya refugees.
Steve Roake, head of compliance, visits and inspections at the Charity Commission, said: “Charities exist to improve lives and strengthen society, so it is vital that trustees fulfil their responsibility to act in the best interests of their charity at all times. Instead, this inquiry uncovered misconduct by these trustees who likely allowed funds to go astray and demonstrated a disregard for the standards and behaviours expected of them. It’s right we’ve removed these individuals from acting as trustees.”
“We’re glad we’ve been able to use our powers to protect the remaining funds and ensure this money has now safely reached the cause for which it was intended.”