The Charity Commission has removed two connected charities from its register and banned their jailed trustees as part of a five-year investigation.
In 2014, the regulator began investigating The Light and the Fatimiyya Trust, which operated from the same North West London premises for "the betterment of humanity/community", having discovered “significant discrepancies” in their income.
The Commission found that the Fatimiyya Trust had overstated its income and expenditure by over £200,000 in its charity accounts for the year to March 2013 when compared to its banking records.
Similarly, the regulator found The Light had overstated its income by more than £400,000 and its expenditure by over £350,000 in its accounts for the year to January 2013 compared to its banking records.
After trustees of the charities failed to comply with formal direction from the Commission, the regulator conducted an unannounced visit to their premises in May 2016 but found no evidence that they were still operating there.
Soon after, an office manager of the premises confirmed that the charities had vacated the premises in early 2014.
The Commission also tried to contact the charities’ trustees, all of whom were based in Pakistan, but they did not respond.
As a result, the Commission removed both charities from the register in December 2016 and removed all the charities’ trustees.
Meanwhile, two former trustees of the charities were convicted of fraud by false representation in April 2016 and sentenced to a combined 10 years in prison following a separate investigation by HM Revenue and Customs.
Abu Talib Ghadiri and his brother Mohsin Raza were found to have submitted false repayment claims of £340,000 to HMRC, with Ghadiri also found to have submitted false VAT invoices worth £47,000.
‘Abuse of trust’
Amy Spiller, head of the Charity Commission’s investigations team, said: “Charities hold special status in society, and enjoy the trust and support of the generous donating public.
“What went on here was a clear abuse of that trust and unacceptable misuse of funds intended to support good causes.
“I am pleased that we were able to stop further abuse by removing the trustees and removing the charities from the register.
“Our investigators also shared important information to support the prosecution, and it is right that those responsible were held to account for their actions.”