Human Aid UK has called on the Charity Commission to complete its statutory inquiry after police returned money that had been confiscated.
In July charity representatives, who were on their way to Gaza to deliver aid, were stopped at Heathrow Airport by border police under powers contained within schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
Money they were carrying was seized, and the following month the Charity Commission opened a statutory inquiry.
Yesterday Human Aid UK issued a statement saying that the money has been returned, and that it now hopes the Commission inquiry can be closed.
Nur Choudhury, chair of Human Aid UK, said: “Human Aid UK has worked hard to pursue the funds entrusted to it and we are pleased to have finally retrieved the donations after 10 months. We can now take steps to make sure the funds reach the besieged people of Gaza.
“Now that all public funds seized have finally been returned, we need to question the basis of the statutory inquiry launched at the time. The people of Gaza were deprived of this life saving charitable contribution whilst hundreds of hours of police time and charity time was wasted.
“Moreover, the Charity Commission took the very serious step of initiating a statutory inquiry into Human Aid mainly on the basis of the seizure. We will be writing to the Commission seeking answers and hope that this inquiry, which has already lasted more than 10 months, can now be brought to a close.”
The charity has previously raised concerns about the treatment of Muslim charities at UK borders and the regulatory scrutiny they face.
Human Aid UK said this diverts resources from delivering help to those in need.
Charity Commission response
In 2017 the Commission cautioned against cash couriering, and a number of charities have come under further scrutiny in relation connected to this activity.
When it announced it had opened a statutory inquiry into Human Aid UK last September, it said it was looking at: “The trustees’ management and administration of the charity, including their compliance with both charity law and the law as it relates to the charity and its administration; and the charity’s governance, adherence to policies and procedures, use of partners and monitoring and verification of overseas expenditure.”
Yesterday the Commission said it had not yet heard from the charity directly and that its inquiry remains open.
A spokesperson said: “The Commission’s statutory inquiry into Human Aid UK remains open and ongoing, and we refer to our public statement announcing the opening of the inquiry, which sets out the issues the inquiry is examining. If the trustees of the charity wish to request that the Commission concludes its inquiry, it is open to them to request this and for the Commission to consider any such request. To date, no such request has been made.
“Any questions regarding the seizure of funds in July 2019, under the Proceeds of Crime Act, from individuals carrying them on behalf of the charity are a matter for the Police, not the Commission.
“We are confident that there is no bias in the way that we assess concerns or make decisions about our regulatory case work. We make all such decisions by applying our risk framework. In addition, we undertake regular analyses of our inquiries, which provides additional assurance that there do not appear to be any areas of significant over or under-representation in the charities into which inquiries are opened.”