Thursday, March 23, 2017

Muslim Aid: We were cleared of all wrongdoing


 

Muslim Aid yesterday wrote the Express to “clarify” that the allegations which led to the organisation appearing on an Israeli Military of Defence (IDF) proscription list are completely false.

“Muslim Aid was fully cleared of any alleged wrongdoing in 2010 by the Charity Commission of England and Wales, with which it cooperated in full,” Muslim Aid Information and Public Affairs Officer Sara Morad wrote in an e-mail to the Express.

She was responding to an article in the Sunday Express which reported that in July 2015 local police wrote the Central Authority of the Office of the Attorney General requesting assistance with their probe into businessman Inshan Ishmael and his financial contributions to two charities: Muslim Aid and Human Concern International (HCI).

Both charities have been red-flagged in the past for having possible terrorist links or funding terrorist activity. HCI was allegedly linked to Al Qaeda and Muslim Aid was categorised as a terrorist organisation by the IDF.

Ishmael has described the allegations as absolutely false, saying that he was never contacted by police.

Financial irregularities

 

In 2015, Charity Commission, the UK-based charity regulators found financial and governance irregularities within Muslim Aid and gave the charity one year to fix the issues.

Despite guidance from the Charity Commission, by October 21, 2016 the organisation appointed its own interim manager with a mandate to clean up the irregularities.

At the time of that appointment, director of Monitoring and Enforcement at the Charity Commission, Michele Russell was quoted as saying that there were “underlying issues that have been identified in this enquiry that the trustees have unfortunately been unable to resolve on their own”.

“The appointment of an interim manager was a necessary but positive step to address these outstanding compliance and governance issues. The end goal for all concerned, including the trustees, is to ensure the charity moves forward in a compliant manner and on a positive footing to continue the valuable charitable work it does,” she said then.

Full compliance

 

Morad, in her e-mail, described Muslim Aid as “an impartial, neutral and independent faith-based International NGO working with various International development actors including UN bodies such as UNCHR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), UNWFP (United Nations World Food Programme), UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund) and statutory funding bodies such as EU and ECHO.

“All of Muslim Aid's operations fully comply with British and international Humanitarian law, which is how we have been able to implement life-saving projects in over 70 countries worldwide for over 30 years. Muslim Aid has been registered since 1985 and fully regulated by the Charity Commission of the British government, we are transparent about our operations and remain committed to serving our donors and the millions who benefit from our work each year,” she wrote.

The Express wrote Morad to clarify the appointment of the interim manager in 2016 but received no reply.

Background

 

The Sunday Express reported this week that Ishmael has been red-flagged in connection with attempts to wire transfer millions to organisations abroad allegedly linked to terrorism. Two transfers were successful and two were not.

Among the attempts local police are seeking more information about is TT$3.4 million in 2011 to Muslim Aid foundation which was classified as a terrorist organisation.

The police letter to the Central Authority stated that Ishmael is under investigation for attempting to send Great Britain Pound (GBP) 10,154.44 to Muslim Aid to provide “charitable aid to Somalia” back in 2014.

That wire transfer passed through RBC in Trinidad without issue but was cancelled and red-flagged by the Toronto routing department of the same bank because “Muslim Aid is categorised as a terrorist organisation by the Israeli Military of Defence and is listed on the World Check database”, the letter stated.

The Sunday Express obtained the four-page letter to the Central Authority requesting its assistance under the Mutual Assistance Criminal Matters to determine whether Ishmael and one of three companies, IBN Communications Company Ltd, initiated a “unsuccessful wire transfer” to Muslim Aid.

The Financial Investigations Branch of the Police Service (FIB) is also attempting to ascertain whether Muslim Aid received a “successful wire transfer of GBP14,285.71” from Ishmael.

Ishmael has also been financially supporting another group, Human Concern International, according to the letter.

“In 2009, Mr Ishmael transferred Canadian $594,862.52 to Human Concern International, an organisation allegedly linked to Al Qaeda”, it added.

In that same year, according to the FIB, Ishmael and “two associates” made a cash deposit of TT$990,000 at a local bank but could not provide source of funds support.

“The proceeds were allegedly from a fundraising venture at IBN,” the letter said.