Charity Commission freezes bank accounts of fund for Rohingya refugees

25 Jul 2019 News

The Charity Commission has frozen the bank accounts and opened a statutory inquiry into a charitable fund set up to support Rohingya refugees who had fled violence in Myanmar. 

As it announced the opening of the inquiry it said it had found that "trustees placed charitable funds at risk".

The fund for refugees was never registered as a charity, but as it raised money for charitable purposes it falls within the Commission’s jurisdiction. 

An inquiry was launched in April 2018, after the Commission received information from a partner agency about their separate investigation into the fund’s two trustees, Mohammed Hasnath and Ruksana Ali. 

However, the inquiry could not be announced until now due to the risk of prejudicing that investigation. The Commission has now been informed that the investigation has ended. 

The Commission's inquiry is examining:

  • Whether the trustees have properly exercised their legal duties and responsibilities under charity law in the administration, governance and management of the fund.
  • Whether the trustees have put charitable funds at risk by using them for non-charitable purposes.
  • Whether the trustees can adequately account for the end use of the charitable funds which have already been applied.
  • The conduct of the trustees. 
  • The optimal way to apply the protected charitable funds to support the Rohingya refugees who are the intended beneficiaries.

The fund raised money between July 2017 and March 2018 for the prevention and relief of poverty of Rohingya refugees, via two online donation platforms and through social media. 

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in Myanmar. Over a million Rohingya refugees have fled violence in Myanmar in successive waves of displacement since the early 1990s, according to the UN Refugee Agency. At the peak of the crisis in 2017 thousands of people were crossing into Bangladesh daily. 

The Commission has frozen a number of bank accounts holding the charitable funds. The trustees are also prevented from undertaking specified transactions in the administration of the fund without prior written approval from the Commission. 

Advice from the Commission on how to donate safely to charities delivering humanitarian aid to people fleeing Myanmar is available here.

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