Two trustees charged with stealing more than £400,000 from poverty relief charity

Syed Hajnajafi and Akila Kassam are accused of stealing the money from Afghan Poverty Relief

Two trustees of Afghan Poverty Relief have been charged with stealing more than £400,000 from the charity.  

Syed Hajnajafi, 49, and his wife Akila Kassam, 45, from Nunhead in south-east London, are accused of stealing £408,762 from the charity between January 2007 and November 2011.

The pair were charged yesterday by the Metropolitan Police. Kassam was also charged with four counts of fraud for allegedly making "untrue or misleading" representations to the Charity Commission.

These relate to four submissions of returns, between November 2008 and January 2011, which claimed there were no remuneration, benefits or expenses for trustees for the year.

The commission said it had opened a statutory inquiry into the charity in February 2012 because of concerns relating to misappropriation of charity funds and its administration, governance and management.

The couple, who were arrested in November 2011, were bailed and will appear at City of London Magistrates’ Court on 6 June.

The charity was set up in 2004 to support communities in Afghanistan by providing food and water in crisis situations and microfinance to widows and orphans, and by building schools and clinics.  

It has not filed accounts for two years, but the last set available on the Charity Commission website show it had an income of £497,934 and expenditure of £523,223 to the end of May 2010.

The charity declined to comment on the case.

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said: "The commission is aware of the charges against two trustees of the charity Afghan Poverty Relief. We are working closely with the police on this matter. Due to ongoing criminal proceedings and our own statutory inquiry into the charity, we cannot comment further at this stage."

Another man, aged 33, was arrested in Birmingham in June last year in connection with the investigation, on suspicion of fraud and money laundering. Police said he would face no further action.

Jenna Pudelek

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