British charity watchdog warns of Islamist threat

Three charities are being investigated for raising funds for Syria while seven others are being monitored

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Islamic extremism is the “most deadly” problem faced by British charities, the head of the sector’s watchdog said Sunday.

William Shawcross, the chairman of the Charity Commission, said the regulatory body was trying to take action against charities “sending cash to extremist groups in Syria”, in an interview with The Sunday Times newspaper.

He also said it was “ludicrous” that people with terror or money laundering convictions are not automatically disqualified from setting up charities or becoming charity trustees.

Shawcross has written to Prime Minister David Cameron urging a change in the law.

He said the commission was taking tough measures against any charity found to be “sending cash to extremist groups in Syria” or “dispatching young Britons for training in Syria by Al-Qaeda or other extremist groups”.

“The problem of Islamist extremism and charities... is not the most widespread problem we face in terms of abuse of charities, but is potentially the most deadly. And it is, alas, growing,” said Shawcross.


“I’m sure that in places like Syria and Somalia it is very, very difficult for agencies always to know what the end use of their aid is, but they’ve got to be particularly vigilant.”

Three charities are being investigated for raising funds for Syria while seven others are being monitored.

Several people have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in alleged charity fraud in which police believe money donated to help victims of the Syrian conflict could have been used for terror or criminal activities.

In February the watchdog was condemned as “feeble” and “not fit for purpose” following an investigation into its performance by a committee of lawmakers.

Shawcross said the body, which regulates 160,000 charities, needed stronger legal powers and greater funding in order to improve.