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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2007, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Watchdog must combat terror funds
North London Central Mosque
Abu Hamza was found to be using mosque charity funds for terror
The Charity Commission should do more to identify charities who raise funds for terrorists, the government says.

The watchdog needs to work closer with police and security services to tackle phoney charities, a review paper warns.

Home Office minister Tony McNulty said disrupting the flow of funds was a "key part" of the fight against terrorism.

The commission said it was committed to tackling terror, but voluntary group representatives said the whole charity sector should not be tarnished.

Disrupting the flow of funds is a key part of the global effort to combat terrorism
Home Office minister Tony McNulty

The Home Office and Treasury report follows concern that charities can be used to raise cash to fund terrorist activities.

In 2001, radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza was found to be using funds from the North London Central Mosque charity for "personal and political" purposes. This included supporting terror.

The government report said the watchdog now needed to make better use of classified intelligence material and improve communication to identify phoney charities.

Review 'needed'

Relationships with government intelligence agencies and the Whitehall counter-terrorist committee structure were "somewhat ad hoc", it said.

"Working procedures and protocols should be reviewed and refreshed in order to ensure that these relationships become more effective in countering the terrorist threat," it added.

By placing a veil of suspicion over all charities, the government is in danger of damaging the trusted reputation of the voluntary sector
Liz Atkins
National Council for Voluntary Organisations

The charity sector must also work to prevent terrorists using charities as a "veil of legitimacy", the report said.

Mr McNulty said the government would work with charities to ensure they were protected from terrorist abuse.

"When people reach into their pockets to give to charities, they want to be sure that their donations will make a positive difference and that their generosity will not be exploited by terrorists," he said.

He added: "Disrupting the flow of funds is a key part of the global effort to combat terrorism."

'Unacceptable'

But the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) warned that by "placing a veil of suspicion" over the charity sector, the government risked putting people off donating.

Liz Atkins, director of public policy at NCVO, said any abuse of charitable status by terrorists was "unacceptable".

She added: "However, the reality is that instances of the terrorist abuse of charities are extremely rare, and when they occur they are dealt with by the independent charity regulator, the Charity Commission.

Making charities safe from terrorist exploitation is essential to ensuring they can continue their vital work, and critical to maintaining the public's trust
Andrew Hind
Charity Commission

"By placing a veil of suspicion over all charities, the government is in danger of damaging the trusted reputation of the voluntary sector and making people less likely to donate to good causes."

Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said his organisation was "completely committed" to combating terrorism.

He added: "Making charities safe from terrorist exploitation is essential to ensuring they can continue their vital work, and critical to maintaining the public's trust and confidence."

The commission would set out its detailed response to the review after more consultation, he said.

The joint Home Office and Treasury document is open to consultation until August 2.


SEE ALSO
Abu Hamza and the mosque
28 May 04 |  UK
Charities in terror fund spotlight
15 Oct 03 |  Business

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