The Charity Commission has launched an inquiry into a charity that supports Middle Eastern refugees after it was found that the charity’s funds were held in a bank account of an individual who had been under police investigation for alleged terrorist financing offences.
The regulator announced yesterday that it has been investigating the charity, CAWRM Ltd, known as Jerusalem Merit, since 28 November 2018, following a number of regulatory concerns including the location of its funds and concerns that not all of the funds held by the investigated individual had been repaid to the charity.
Other concerns stated by the regulator included fears that charitable funds had been put at risk by couriering money from the UK to the Middle East, with some £45,000 transferred in this way in the first half of 2018.
Jerusalem Merit, which was founded in 2018, supports the Iraqi refugee community in Jordan by relieving poverty and financial hardship. It provides education, health and housing support to refugees.
The charity’s founder and ambassador, British clergyman, Canon Dr Andrew White has been the subject of a two-year investigation and suspension as president of an interfaith charity he also founded, the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East due to controversial comments he made in 2016 about Islamic State.
He was cleared by the Metropolitan Police in 2018, after allegations were made that he sent money to Islamic State extremists to secure the release of women being held as sex slaves in Syria and Iraq.
In this inquiry, the Commission will also investigate “unauthorised employment and remuneration of a trustee; unexplained large payments to a limited company whose sole director is the individual linked to the charity; and the inability to account for the charity’s funds before it was registered with the Commission.”
It will determine whether or not the charity’s funds have been used solely for charitable purposes and can be accounted for as well as the trustee’s management of the charity and its finances and whether or not they have acted lawfully.
Charity accuses Commission of 'inaccuracy'
In a statement, the trustees of Jerusalem Merit said that some of the comments published in the Charity Commission’s press release were “inaccurate”, and said that they had complied with all of the Commission’s request for information.
The charity stated that they are “a totally transparent organisation” and added that they “are disappointed that [the Commission] have taken this approach”.
The statement said: “Whilst we acknowledge that there were some initial shortcomings beyond our control the Trustees are of the opinion that there is now adequate governance and controls in place. As part of the statutory inquiry we, the trustees, are reviewing performance, competencies and communication levels and will make recommendations for improvement.”
They also accused the Commission of falling short of its objective to give charities “the tools they need to succeed” and claimed: “We have made many requests for guidance and leadership yet we can only identify three occasions when they have responded. On each occasion the answer has either been totally unsatisfactory or has conflicted with information that they have provided.”