Trustee disqualified for ‘wholly inadequate’ running of Syrian charitable fund

Written by Lauren Weymouth

A trustee has been disqualified after failing to demonstrate how he had spent charitable funds raised and collected for the charity Team Syria.

The Charity Commission claimed the trustee had failed to adequately show what the funds collected by the unregistered charity were being spent on, amounting to misconduct and mismanagement.

The charity was set up to help people in Syria, and funds were raised legally, although the organisation was never registered with the Charity Commission.

A statutory inquiry was opened into the charitable fund in June 2017, after the regulator opened a compliance case in 2015 and after the trustee was subject to a criminal investigation in February 2016, of which he was acquitted.

The inquiry found the trustee was responsible for misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charitable fund, for his failure to fulfil basic legal duties, including keeping accounting records or showing how charitable funds had been spent in the name of Team Syria.

Among other findings, the trustee had provided information to the regulator about the activities of Team Syria, which was contradicted by evidence from the police; he had also solicited funds in the name of charities that were unaware of his attempts at fundraising for them (or did not consent to it) and he could not show how the funds had been used.

The regulator claimed he also failed to fully co-operate with the inquiry, which in itself is misconduct and/or mismanagement. He had also acted as a trustee of the fund for over two years while disqualified from doing so.

As part of the criminal investigation, the police seized £7,691.92 of charitable funds held by the trustee.

Soon after the opening of the inquiry the regulator directed the police not to part with the charitable funds seized and has since distributed these funds to two registered charities operating in Syria.

“Our investigation into Team Syria uncovered a wholly inadequate attempt at collecting charitable funds by an individual,” Charity Commission director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement, Michelle Russell said.

“The public has a right to expect those who collect money for a charitable cause, such as helping people in need in Syria, to take their responsibilities seriously. This trustee’s reckless approach to running a charitable fund and handling funds donated by the public, badly let down both the charitable fund’s intended beneficiaries, and the public.

“I’m pleased that our intervention ensured that the charitable funds seized from the trustee went to registered charities’”

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