The Charity Commission is looking into claims made by Lord Alton of Liverpool that a UK charity has been involved in funding Boko Haram, an African militant Islamist group with reportedly close links to al-Qaeda.
Lord Alton, a Liberal Democrat who campaigns regularly on human rights, wrote on 23 July to Foreign Office minister Lord Howell, raising concerns over funding for the group from UK sources, which were first reported in the Nigerian Tribune.
In a letter of response dated 13 August, Lord Howell advised that the issue was brought to the attention of both the Metropolitan Police and the Charity Commission.
While no specific organisation was named in the response, the Observer yesterday reported that a charity named Al-Muntada Trust Fund was at the centre of the enquiries and advised that the charity has "attracted controversy in the past for giving a platform to radical clerics".
The Charity Commission has confirmed it was contacted regarding the situation, but advises that as there are a number of charities listed under this name on its register, it has been unable to ascertain whether a UK charity is responsible for the funding:
"The Commission is aware there may be some concerns with regards to an organisation entitled 'Al-Muntada Trust Fund' and specifically allegations that this organisation has provided financial support to the Nigerian group, Boko Haram," a statement by the regulator advises.
"There are a number of registered charities with a similar name to this organisation, the Commission is not able to confirm at this stage whether or not this relates directly to a UK registered charity."
There are currently two visible charities listed on its register under similar names - the Fulham based Al-Muntada Al-Islami Trust, which registered in January 1986 and has NGO partners in Nigeria as well as Ghana, Mali, Benin and Togo; and the Al Muntada Al-Islamia Trust, which registered in February this year and lists Bangladesh, Benin, Chad, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya and Saudi Arabia as countries in which it operates.
The former has been under scrutiny over its work and appears in a 2008 text called the Hijacking of British Islam, questioning some of the literature that the charity provides within its schools, of which it has two (Al Muntada Primary School and Eden High School) in London and a further 13 across Africa, including Nigeria.
Boko Haram, also known as People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad, has been linked to the deaths of over 700 of Nigeria's Christians so far this year, according to Lord Alton. The group has been listed by the United States as one of the three most dangerous groups in Africa "with undeniable links to al-Qaeda, sharing weapons, explosives and funds", Lord Alton said in a release calling for the group to be proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the UK government.
Last September in its annual regulatory compliance report the Charity Commission advised that it will continue to prioritise issues that are most likely to affect charities' reputations, including terrorism.