Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 28 May 2020

Exclusive: Regulator slams Syria charity after volunteer beheaded

Charity regulator issues damning report on Syria-focused charity that sent Isis victim Alan Henning to the area

British aid worker, Alan Henning, holding a child in a refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border before he was taken hostage and murdered by Isis. AFP
British aid worker, Alan Henning, holding a child in a refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border before he was taken hostage and murdered by Isis. AFP

Serious mistakes by the trustees of a British charity contributed to the fate of a volunteer who was beheaded by an ISIS kidnap gang after he was seized from an aid convoy in Syria, an official report has found.

Alan Henning, 47, was kidnapped and later beheaded by a group of British foreign fighters dubbed the Beatles whilst he was volunteering on an aid convoy with UK charity Al-Fatiha Global in 2013.

The charity initially denied that Mr Henning was one of its volunteers and failed to alert the Foreign Office or police, the six-year inquiry by the charities watchdog, the Charity Commission, has concluded.

The convoys were run by Adeel Ali – the son of the chairman of trustees Mumtaz Ali – who it emerged had been seen previously posing with masked gunmen holding AK47s.

An alleged Facebook friend of the charity was also found to be a convicted terrorist.

Amy Spiller, Head of Investigation Teams at the Charity Commission, said the trustees of Al-Fatiha Global failed in their legal duties and responsibilities.

“They put their charity – its people, assets and good name – at serious risk,” she said.

The report rejected claims Mr Henning was attached to a different organisation.

“The trustees stated that the person abducted was volunteering for another charity, Aid4Syria, not their charity," it said.

“The inquiry found, on the balance of probabilities based on records obtained from the police regarding the volunteer, that he was a volunteer for the charity.

“The fact that they did not know or regard him as a volunteer of the charity when he was, and his safety was in their custody whilst on the convoy was further evidence of lack of adequate oversight and management of the charity’s activities and risks arising from them.

“The trustees’ lack of oversight over the recruitment, management and safety of volunteers, was mismanagement and misconduct in the administration of the charity.”

Women prepare to place a floral tribute at the base of the Eccles Cross for murdered aid worker Alan Henning in Eccles, north west England on October 5, 2014. Britain united in revulsion Saturday at the beheading of aid worker Alan Henning claimed by Islamic State jihadists, as the imam at his home city's main mosque hailed a "local and national hero". Prime Minister David Cameron led tributes to the 47-year-old taxi driver who went to the region as a volunteer to deliver aid and whose death was announced by Islamic State jihadists in a video released late Friday, October 3, 2014. AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF (Photo by OLI SCARFF / AFP)
Women prepare to place a floral tribute at the base of the Eccles Cross for murdered aid worker Alan Henning in Eccles, north west England on October 5, 2014. Britain united in revulsion Saturday at the beheading of aid worker Alan Henning claimed by Islamic State jihadists, as the imam at his home city's main mosque hailed a "local and national hero". Prime Minister David Cameron led tributes to the 47-year-old taxi driver who went to the region as a volunteer to deliver aid and whose death was announced by Islamic State jihadists in a video released late Friday, October 3, 2014. AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF (Photo by OLI SCARFF / AFP)

The inquiry revealed volunteers were each carrying up to £3,000 in cash on trips.

There was no account of what the money was used for, raising concerns it could have been used to fund terrorism.

The charity went from having an income of £4,038 and an expenditure of £500 in 2012 to an income of £1,229,928 and an expenditure of £464,654 within a year.

The watchdog said the charity failed to account for cash taken to Syria and was responsible for misconduct and mismanagement.

It failed to properly vet, safeguard and oversee volunteers who represented the charity, and to account for the way in which funds were spent.

The watchdog launched an inquiry into the charity in 2014 and found that the charity’s trustees provided “little to no” oversight into the people they had tasked to run the convoys.

“The trustees did not, the Commission finds, act reasonably to ensure the charity’s assets, including its name, were used only to support or carry out its purposes,” it said.

Adeel Ali had been in charge of recruiting 22 volunteers in Turkey and 60 inside Syria.

The inquiry found there was “no evidence” of any background checks carried out or training given and said that the volunteers’ “precise roles still remains unclear”.

In relation to him posing with armed fighters, it said: “The inquiry found that volunteer A’s conduct in posing for a photograph with masked gunmen in a conflict zone - irrespective of whether he was acting as a representative of the charity at the time and irrespective of whether it was in 2013 in Syria or 2012 in Gaza - was not behaviour appropriate for a charity to be associated with. It was conduct likely to be damaging to public trust and confidence in a charity.”

Miss Spiller said the Charity had not been wound up but was run by new appointees.

“I am pleased that the charity is now on a much more secure footing, with a largely new trustee board, and appropriate policies and processes in place to ensure the charity delivers on its purpose safely.

“I hope other trustees learn from this case – notably about the very serious risks involved in taking part in aid convoys.”

The Commission says the trustees co-operated with the inquiry and that it is satisfied the charity is now operating lawfully.

Last year Mr Henning was honoured in his home city of Salford when a new street was named after him.

Two of the men, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, accused of his murder are due to stand trial in the US.

The men, who have been stripped of their British citizenship, are alleged to have been part of a four-man Isis execution team.

Among the 27 beheaded western hostages who fell victim to the group were US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines.

Updated: March 31, 2020 05:33 PM

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