Two ex-trustees jailed for stealing £350,000 from poverty relief charity

Syed Hajnajafi and Akila Kassam were sentenced at Croydon Crown Court for the theft from Afghan Poverty Relief over a five-year period

Croydon Crown Court
Croydon Crown Court

A husband and wife who were trustees of Afghan Poverty Relief have been jailed for a total of eight years for stealing £350,000 from the charity over a five-year period.

Syed Hajnajafi was found guilty of one count of theft and Akila Kassam of four counts of fraud and one count of theft at the Old Bailey in London last month.

At Croydon Crown Court yesterday, Hajnajafi, 50, was sentenced to five years in prison and Kassam, 46, was given three years imprisonment.

The charity is the subject of a statutory inquiry by the commission, which was opened in February 2012 and is looking into concerns over the alleged misappropriation of charity funds and concerns about its administration, governance and management.

The couple, who stole charity money and transferred it into personal bank accounts, were originally arrested in November 2011 in relation to the offences, which dated from January 2007 until the time of their arrest.

They were charged with theft in May 2013 by the Metropolitan Police, with Kassam also facing four counts of fraud for allegedly making "untrue or misleading" representations to the Charity Commission that related to annual return submissions.

Both individuals were suspended as trustees of APR by the regulator on 4 July 2013, and in December the commission issued Hajnajafi with notice of its intention to remove him from his position. This process was put on hold because of the criminal proceedings.

One of the commission’s officers gave evidence in the trial. The commission said it was continuing to talk to police to see whether any of the stolen funds could be recovered for charity. Its statutory inquiry continues.

The sentences mean that Hajnajafi is disqualified from acting as a charity trustee for life and Kassam will be banned from being a trustee for 10 years after the end of her sentence.

Michelle Russell, head of investigations and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: "We welcome the strong message given today that the abuse of charities for personal gain is taken seriously by the courts.

"Joint working between the commission and the police has again proved successful in bringing those that abuse charities to justice and upholding public trust and confidence in the sector."

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