Nowzad cleared by regulator over Afghanistan rescue mission concerns

The Charity Commission has cleared animal welfare charity Nowzad of wrongdoing around its evacuation of staff and animals from Taliban controlled Afghanistan.

Concerns had been raised that its objectives had not been made clear to donors around its Operation Ark mission, to rescue animals and staff after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last year.

But the regulator has concluded its investigation saying that the charity's objectives were clearly detailed, trustees’ decision making and actions were reasonable and it was valid for the charity to use fundraising income for the evacuation.

Wider concerns have also been raised around the extent of Boris Johnson and the government’s involvement in Nowzad’s operation.

But the regulator stresses it is not within its remit “to consider the role the government may or may not have had in the evacuation of animals and staff from Afghanistan.

Earlier this year leaked emails to MPs revealed that Johnson had authorised the evacuation of Nozwad staff despite the Prime Minister claiming that it was “nonsense” that he had intervened.

The Commission says it has been “engaging more widely” with the charity over its future, due to the evolving situation in Taliban controlled Afghanistan.

“As part of this the Commission has provided the trustees with advice and guidance on a range of issues, including internal governance and effective risk management while operating in conflict zones,” said the regulator.

Nowzad is run by former marine Pen Farthing. The charity said this year that it is “rebuilding" operations in Afghanistan through staff that remained in the country.

Charity Commission assistant director of casework and proactive regulation Tracy Howarth added: “We take all concerns raised with us seriously and will always assess them impartially and expertly against the Commission’s own criteria and the law.

“In this case, we did not find evidence of wrongdoing and recognised the trustees’ ongoing efforts to manage the charity under difficult circumstances.

“The Commission exists to support trustees to meet their legal duties and responsibilities, as well as take action where we find problems.

“To this end, we have provided Nowzad’s trustees with guidance to help ensure they respond appropriately to the uncertainty and challenges they now face.”

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