A British man known as the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’ has been banned from working with any UK charity for 12 years due to serious misconduct involving his “intent” to pay ISIS to release sex slaves.
Canon Andrew White received the ban over his work with the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME) during which the UK’s charity watchdog found emails showing he intended to pay terrorists to free two Yazidi sex slaves.
Now, the trustees of a second UK charity, called CAWRM, have been reprimanded by the Charity Commission for misconduct.
Canon White, who has worked in Iraq since 1998 when he was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s special Middle East envoy, was the ambassador of CAWRM, which was formed in 2017 and ran aid missions in Jerusalem and Israel.
A watchdog investigation has discovered that trustees placed the charity’s funds into Canon White’s personal bank account as a temporary measure prior to setting up an account of its own, and as a result he owes them money.
“The inquiry found that there was no formal consideration and decision-making by the founding trustees to use the personal bank account of Canon White,” the Charity Commission said.
“There were also no safeguards or arrangements in place to ring-fence the charitable funds which were mixed with Canon White’s personal funds and spending. The founding trustees confirmed that Canon White owed the charity money as a result of confusion between personal and charitable funds, but were unable to confirm to the inquiry how much he owes as they failed to keep adequate records.”
The Commission has also reprimanded CAWRM over a conflict of interest after it paid £14,000 to an oil commodities company owned solely by Canon White.
It found all three of the founding trustees were linked to his company Ace White Gold, including his wife Caroline.
“The founding trustees were of the understanding the company would donate a sum of its profits back to the charity,” it said.
“However, the inquiry found that no written agreement was in place to confirm this arrangement, and as of the closure of the inquiry, no evidence has been identified of any donations having been made from the company to the charity to date.”
Another trustee was also paid a wage of £15,160 in breach of its policy that trustees must not receive payment.
The charity, which has more than £160,000 in funds, paid for Canon White’s books to be published on the understanding he would donate some of the sales profits to it.
However, the Commission said: “The inquiry has not been shown any evidence to support that even without the written agreement, Canon White has been donating funds raised from the book sales to the charity.”
The watchdog also found the charity had taken £42,000 in cash in overseas aid missions to Jordan and Israel.
It had also been paying a consultant in Israel $3,000 a month, although it was unable to clarify what the payment was for, and was paying £5,000 a month to a school in Jordan and had no details on how those funds were spent.
“The inquiry found that the agreements predated the creation of the charity and were set up by Canon White,” the Commission said.
“On formation of the charity, the founding trustees continued the agreements without assessing whether the terms of payment to the consultant were justified for the role they provided.”
The Commission has advised the charity to seek legal advice regarding the return of the money.
“This case is a reminder that good governance is more than a bureaucratic detail,” said Tim Hopkins, of the Charity Commission.
“It should serve as a lesson for all charities in the importance of strong independent boards that protect and steer their charity towards furthering its purpose, in the interests of those it is set up to help. The role of an ambassador should be to support a charity and help it thrive.”
In January, the watchdog found Canon White guilty of serious misconduct at FRRME.
It began investigating him after FRRME reported he was believed to have sent $17,500 to ISIS to secure the release of two hostages.
In London, Scotland Yard investigated him on suspicion of financing terrorism but no action was taken.
Despite the police finding, the Commission found that the clergyman “had intended to secure the release of individuals from ISIS” due to a number of emails sent by him on the issue.
It said that despite there being “no evidence” that any money was handed over, Canon White’s actions “fell well below that expected and required of a charity trustee”, and that he had engaged in such serious misconduct that it was likely to cause damage to the income and reputation of his foundation.
Canon White served as the vicar of St George’s Church in Baghdad until he was told to leave for his own safety in 2014.
Prior to the church, he originally trained at St Thomas's Hospital in London where he qualified as an operating department practitioner and at one point worked alongside former eye surgeon, the current Syrian president Bashar Al Assad.
Canon White became known as the Vicar of Baghdad on account of his church being the only remaining Anglican place of worship in Iraq.