An investigation has been launched into a charity which housed an Islamic school found to be unlawfully segregating its students at the centre of the UK’s Trojan Horse extremism scandal.
The UK’s charity watchdog says it has “serious concerns” about Birmingham based Al-Hijrah Trust, which provides international education.
The allegations involve debts arising from missing funds estimated to be £1.2m, which the former trustees had said was invested overseas.
Last year the Islamic faith Al-Hijrah School, which was based in a Al-Hijrah Trust-owned property in Britain's second city, closed down after government inspectors discovered it segregated its 760 pupils in contravention of national laws.
The measures in place included a rule that girls wait for boys to finish eating before they could have their lunch.
The charity, which originally set up the school, has been under investigation by the Charity Commission since 2015 over its finances. The ongoing inquiry focuses on income derived from the Al-Hijrah School’s occupation of one of the charity’s properties.
The regulator has now announced a second statutory inquiry and appointed an interim manager at the charity. The new inquiry will be focusing on governance and safeguarding.
“The Charity Commission has opened a new statutory inquiry due to serious concerns that charity properties are at risk. It will also examine concerns around governance and safeguarding,” it said.
A complex series of internal reorganisations is at the heart of the inquiry. In 2014 a new charity of the same name was created and an agreement was drawn up to transfer property and assets from the previous charity to the new charity, with the intention that the older charity would then dissolve. However, two assets have still not been transferred and the entities continue to exist in parallel.
“The regulator’s inquiries are seeking to address this, including issues surrounding an outstanding charge on one property caused by a loan obtained by former trustees to finance an unsecured investment in a Dubai-based company,” the regulator added.
“The property remains at significant risk due to this arrangement.
“In addition, the regulator is concerned by an apparent breakdown in governance at the charity and whether individuals listed as trustees of it on the Register of Charities were and are properly appointed as trustees. There are also concerns around private benefit and allegations of safeguarding issues at the charity.”
The UK’s former chief schools' inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, who led an official investigation into extremism in UK schools, has previously said he was “shocked” when he visited Al-Hijrah and had said the girls were “treated incredibly badly”.
He had repeatedly called for its closure and accused education chiefs of being “politically correct” in not wanting to confront Islamic schools.
The Trust has previously faced criticism due to claims that the Al-Hijrah School was in urgent need of repairs that had not been carried out.
The Al-Hijrah School, which was £2.9m in debt when it closed last year, was the first Islamic school in the city when it opened in 1999.