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British Officials Fear Terrorists Hijacking Charities

November 13, 2014 Posted by Jessica Shofler in Director Duties, Grantmaking, News, Nonprofits

The Charity Commission, a British government watchdog for charities, is formally investigating 86 British aid organizations to determine whether their charitable funds have been hijacked by terrorists in Iraq and Syria to finance military operations. The Commission fears that extremists are smuggling from the aid groups when the groups are distributing donated cash and equipment in the region.

The number of terrorism-related investigations has almost doubled since February amid growing concerns that charities operating in Iraq and Syria are potential targets for extremists included ISIS. William Shawcross, the chair of the Commission, explained: “Even if extremist and terrorist abuse is rare, which it is, when it happens it does huge damage to public trust in charities. That’s why I take it very seriously.”

The investigations also come at a time when calls for action to cut off terrorist financing are increasingly popular, including The Telegraph’s Stop the Funding of Terror campaign. Globally, experts fear that millions of dollars of charitable donations have already been used to buy weapons and supplies for terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

The Charity Commission has already taken action against charities linked to extremists, with the most serious facing terrorism prosecutions in court. 8 million pounds (about $12,642,000) has recently been given to the Commission to strengthen its ability to tackle abuse of charities. Shawcross is especially concerned about newer charities that are less experienced and often more vulnerable to exploitation.

U.S. charitable organizations are required to determine whether potential international grantees are on terrorist watch lists, among other safeguards. Breaking these rules can lead to criminal charges. If your organization makes grants overseas, do you check grantees and their principles against known terrorist lists?