Police stop charity director from taking £16,000 in charitable funds abroad

The Charity Commission has criticised an international aid charity after a senior executive and volunteers were stopped by police at Heathrow Airport attempting to take more than £16,000 of its funds abroad without a “clear explanation”.

Human Aid UK’s director of operations and two volunteers were stopped by police at Heathrow Airport and found to be in possession of £9,200 and a further £7,169 in US dollars.

They admitted that the funds belonged to the charity and were intended for use in Gaza but “could not provide a clear explanation as to how the finds were intended to be transferred to Gaza, or to whom”, according to the Charity Commission’s investigation into the charity.

The charity’s operations director admitted to police officers that the charity had been advised against this form of “cash couriering” but was unable to tell officers why this guidance was ignored.

The incident in 2019 follows a history of Commission investigations into the charity’s governance and finances, dating back to 2014.

In its report into its latest investigation the regulator found that Human Aid UK had not been property managed or administered by the trustees who were at the charity at the time.

“The decision to allow cash couriering to take place, without the proper documentation to show their provenance including the failure to brief the charity’s staff sufficiently on their intended use, is evidence of misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the Charity,” said the Commission.

The funds were seized by police and later returned to the charity last year, ten months after they were initially seized.

The Charity Commission has acknowledged that there have been improvements at the charity since 2019 and “trustees have shown a willingness to take on board the regulatory advice and guidance provided by the Commission”.

Among lessons for the wider sector is for all charity trustees to be aware of their legal responsibility to ensure charity money is used properly and safeguarded from loss.

It added: “The Commission’s position in respect of cash couriering is clear – The Commission strongly advises charities against the use of cash couriering as a method to transfer charitable funds due to the risks involved.”

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