Police are investigating a Christian charity over concerns that it financed a terrorist organisation when it paid a ransom fee to free hostages.
The Charity Commission raised concerns with the Metropolitan Police in January last year after concerns were raised over payments recorded by the Assyrian Church of the East Relief Organisation (Acero).
Acero’s accounts for the year to 31 July 2016 show that the charity paid £147,689 to “Iraq Hostages” during the year in which its overall income was £1.9m.
A spokesperson for Met Police said on the 16 August last year, officers from its National Terrorism Financial Investigation Unit executed search warrants at a residential address and business address in the Dartford area.
They said that on the same day, a 71-year-old man was interviewed under caution.
“This matter is being investigated by officers from the National Terrorism Financial Investigation Unit, which is part of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command (NTFIU) to determine if terrorist financing offences have been committed,” they said.
“The investigation continues.”
The Charity Commission is itself examining “serious concerns” over the charity’s governance and activities overseas.
A spokesperson said: “That case is ongoing, as is a police investigation related to the charity. In order not to prejudice either investigation, we cannot comment further at this time.”
The charity’s secretary is Andy Darmoo, 71, and it is chaired by the Bishop of Syria, Mar Afram Athneil.
In 2016, Associated Press reported that the bishop had freed 226 members of a Christian minority in Syria, who had been captured a year earlier.
The Sunday Times also reported at the weekend that NatWest has frozen almost £500,000 in the charity’s bank account, but the bank refused to confirm this.