George Galloway MP has accused the Charity Commission of political bias for launching an inquiry into his £1m charity appeal for Gaza.
The Lifeline for Gaza appeal (also known as the Viva Palestina appeal) raised over £1m for a convoy of 100 vehicles to send aid to Gaza in February 2009.
However, the Commission has concerns over the financial governance of the funds raised, and has decided to open an inquiry after failing to establish a dialogue with those connected with the appeal.
In a statement, the Commission said it had tried to contact the appeal on repeated occasions over the last month to establish that the funds held are for charitable purposes. But it has had no substantive responses from the appeal or individuals connected with it.
Although the appeal is not a registered charity, the Commission regards that the appeal has charitable purposes and therefore chosen to open an inquiry which gives it the power to freeze accounts or suspend trustees and employees.
Respect MP Galloway, however, has hit back at the Commission’s “outrageous behaviour”, claiming the appeal only received correspondence from the regulator this week.
“The Viva Palestina campaign has been in contact with the Charity Commission over the last week and sent it a substantial letter today in response to letters only received this morning.
“If anyone needs investigating, it is the Charity Commission itself. There is no good reason why the Commission should jump the gun and issue a statement that it is launching an investigation when, in fact, it was about to receive the information and correspondence it has asked for. But there are plenty of bad reasons for this outrageous behaviour.
“This isn’t the first time the Charity Commission has intervened in a blatantly political way. It did over my campaign against sanctions on Iraq, when it repeatedly went through the books of a political campaign despite the fact it never found anything untoward.”
In 2007, an inquiry into Galloway's Mariam Appeal, which sent medical aid to Iraqi children, found that the trustees "were not sufficiently vigilant” with regard to improper donations.