UK charity regulator opens probe into funds raised by Sikh group

Friday, 05/07/2019

LONDON: Britain’s Charity Commission has announced a statutory inquiry into funds held by and raised in connection with campaign group Sikh Youth UK, soon after the West Midlands police arrested two people in Birmingham on Wednesday linked to alleged fraud of charitable funds.

The group is not a registered charity organisation, but the regulator said it has jurisdiction “due to the funds being charitable”. The inquiry was opened in November 2018, but it said the announcement was held back to avoid prejudicing criminal proceedings.

The inquiry and the two arrests are a fallout of a series of searches by the counter-terrorism unit of the West Midlands police in September last year, when it said they were conducted “in connection with allegations of extremist activity in India and fraud offences”.

The police said on Wednesday: “A 38-year-old man and a 49-year-old woman were detained from an address in Birmingham for questioning in connection with alleged fraud offences of donated charitable funds. The pair is being held at a police station in the West Midlands.”

The force added that the counter-terrorism unit has been working closely with the Charity Commission in the investigation.

The group describes itself as “a national organisation raising awareness on social evils and supporting the victims of sexual grooming, substance abuse and domestic violence within the community”.

“The organisation uses spirituality, sport and educationbased treatment and rehabilitation programmes coupled with close mentoring and support groups,” it adds.

The commission said that in October 2018, the West Midlands police notified it of concerns relating to the organisation’s receipt and use of charitable funds.

The regulator exercised its powers and obtained copies of relevant bank statements.

“The commission’s analysis of the information obtained to date has identified a number of regulatory concerns which warrant further investigation,” it said.

The inquiry is examining whether those in control of charitable funds have properly exercised their legal duties and responsibilities under charity law in the administration of charitable funds held by the organisation and its financial management.

It is also looking into whether there has been private benefit to the trustees of the organisation, its partnerships with other charities and the conduct of the trustees.

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