Regulator removes trustee and distributes £13m to other charities

Written by Mark Evans

A former charity chair has been disqualified and over £13m has been distributed to charities following a Charity Commission inquiry into a children's charity.

The Commission opened a statutory inquiry into Relief for Distressed Children and Young People in 2006 after concerns were raised about its management and administration.

On opening the inquiry, the Commission took protective action to freeze access to £13.8m held across three bank accounts in the charity’s name.

The inquiry questioned the trustees about $6.35m, which they claimed had been spent on building orphanages in Iraq.

Investigators examined letters, photographs and detailed plans of building work. It later materialised that over $5m had been passed to non-charitable organisations or friends and family of the trustees in Iraq.

Although funds equivalent to those misapplied, plus interest, were repaid into the charity’s bank accounts by the trustees, the inquiry determined that this was a form of admission that funds had been misapplied.

In 2007, the Commission suspended the trustees, and the chair was removed in September 2007.

As the charity’s funds remained protected by Orders of the Commission, and with no trustees remaining, the inquiry appointed an interim manager to settle any tax liability and make a determination on the charity’s future.

As a result, between 2011 and 2016 the interim manager awarded grants of over £13m to three charities working in Iraq to relieve poverty. The charity was removed from the Register of Charities on 1 March 2019.

Charity Commission director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement said: "As regulator, we want to see charity thrive. This case highlights the lengths we will go to address misconduct and/or mismanagement in charities and protect charity property and assets so that the sector can inspire trust."

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