Charity Commission launches inquiry into Olive Grove Foundation

The aid group, which sends aid to Syria, says the watchdog has abused its powers

Deraa, Syria. An aid group that sends relief to the country is under investigation by England’s Charity Commission watchdog. AFP
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Allegations of financial mismanagement at an British charity that sends aid to Syria are being investigated.

The Olive Grove Foundation, in the northern English city of Bradford, has hit back at the inquiry and launched legal action.

It says the government agency that regulates charities has abused its powers.

The Olive Grove Foundation's chairman, Mohammed Bhaiyat, says the Charity Commission has singled out Muslim charities.

“Despite having no viable evidence, the Charity Commission has abused its powers and halted our international operations,” he said in a statement.

“The alleged evidence that the Commission has put forth as reasons for opening a Statutory Inquiry and placing restrictions on the movement of funds have no merit and we are confident that we will succeed in proving this and henceforth have initiated legal action.

“From the inception of the Olive Grove Foundation, not a single penny has been mismanaged or misused and every donation has reached the intended beneficiary.”

The regulator had previously engaged with the charity over concerns about its expenditure in high-risk areas.

“The concerns include, but are not limited to, poor governance, poor monitoring of charitable funds and the use of a personal bank account to transfer money overseas,” it said.

It will also examine the charity’s financial controls, including the transfer of charitable funds to personal bank accounts, and its activities and partnerships abroad.

Mr Bhaiyat said the Commission had also taken out an order restricting the movement of funds overseas which had stopped the group’s “vital work assisting the victims of wars, natural disasters and poverty”.

“As a result many of the women, children and men who are reliant on our aid will suffer severe hardship,” he said.

“Despite two investigations over a two and a half year period, the Charity Commission has not been able to identify a single instance where charitable funds have been misused by Olive Grove Foundation.”

Updated: August 17, 2021, 2:13 PM