Eight held in Syria charity fraud inquiry after national raids

Vehicles loaded with food, clothes and medicine leaving for Syria.

Eight people have been arrested by police investigating fraudulent use of funds from four charities based in the UK.

The men were arrested after raids in Derby, Harlow in Essex, east and south-east London, and Dewsbury and Huddersfield in West Yorkshire.

Kent Police said it followed the seizure of US dollars, euros, and pound sterling worth more than £450,00 at the Port of Dover in December. The charities are linked to Syrian aid organisations.

Det Chief Supt Chris Hogben of Kent Police said the arrests were part of an ongoing investigation. “Our investigation aims to ensure the funds given by the public reach their intended destination and are not used in connection with criminal activity,” he said.

“We will continue to ensure any large quantities of cash being transported through Kent’s ports is checked against its purpose.”

Charities

Police seized 8,310 euros (£6,856), 10,700 US dollars (£6,412) and £31,816 on 23 December.

It followed a seizure revealed in August of more than £40,000 from a group of men leaving the country for the Middle East.

Mr Hogben said police and other agencies were working to ensure money intended to help people in need in Syria was not used for criminal activity or for terrorism. “It is imperative that the public has confidence in the charities they support and in the money they are donating being used for the purpose it is intended.

“We advise the public to use the online register of charities on the Charity Commission website before donating, to check whether an organisation is a legitimate registered charity.”

Recently, a number of prominent Muslim preachers have spoken against aid convoys going to conflict zones like Gaza and Syria.

Manchester-based Abu Eesa Niamatullah of Al-Maghrib Institute posted his stance on Facebook against Muslims relying on aid convoys to distribute sadaqah and zakaat.

“Please help me understand something about aid convoys from UK/Europe to places like Syria. This is no sarcasm by the way, I genuinely want to hear a robust justification for such operations as per the principles of amanah and ihsan.

Abu Eesa Niamatullah of Al Maghrib Institute.
Abu Eesa Niamatullah of Al Maghrib Institute.

What is perceived to be the reason why this is a good idea versus using local charities instead? I say this because in many instances (not all, I accept):

– Considering the time taken off to travel (a few weeks on average), the loss of salary is significant. Especially professionals. If that time was worked instead and that salary was donated to pay for local professionals (by local I mean countries bordering or closer to the war zone, especially Turkey) such as doctors and nurses, you would get much more bang for your buck. A few weeks of locuming would cover healthcare costs for months in the war-zone.

– Costs of items (when purchased) are more expensive here than in Turkey/Jordan or local areas

– By purchasing and hiring locally in aid operations, you help to restart some economy of sorts – a limited, short-term one admittedly – but it allows for at least some sort of income to come in to those who wish to work for it instead of just receive charity

– Significant amounts of public funds collected are forced to be paid in bribes just in order to get through borders without hassle. How is this an acceptable use of sadaqah vs. transferring all funds electronically

– Much money is confiscated by authorities – not bribes – because of falling foul of local money laundering rules etc

– A majority of such projects are carried out by those who are not Syrian or Arabic speakers or those who are intimately aware of the confusing intricacies of the resistance. Thus, much aid and ambulances etc is handed over to those who look the most practising or professional only for it to be never seen again or end up in the hands of those who are playing you.

– I can see one obvious benefit from going: the iman-rush that aid workers experience clearly justifies the operation, many returning with renewed vigour in deen and da’wah and feeling more passionate in raising awareness. That’s fine at the personal level, but how is this justified at the expense of public money as per the above facts? Meaning, how are aid convoys in today’s corrupt, politically difficult climate justified financially, politically, and even religiously where the protection of amanah wealth is a priority aid workers carry on their necks when they convince the public to donate to them.

I know the major charities generally don’t do this kind of thing obviously. They know it’s not justifiable at any real quality or policy level, or at an amanah level. If there are any exceptions, I;d like to know. But I don’t really need to hear from those folks. I’m more interested in the opinions of those who set their own thing up and off they go with their convoy.

Disclaimer: I am not on my high horse. Unfortunately I also was part of something similar in my younger years and I wish someone could also have advised me properly then as well.

Disclaimer 2: I support a local charity which doesn’t do aid convoys.”

Abu Eesa faced a relentless barage of criticism on social media from Muslims who give charity to aid convoys going to Syria.

Supporting aid convoys

Majid Freeman is a prominent voluntary aid worker from Leicester who has visited Syria three times.

He urged Muslims on his Facebook page to carry on supporting aid convoys and that “big charities and aid convoys both do good work”.

“Alhamdulillah big charity organisations and aid convoys both do good work for Syria.

It’s not one is doing good and the other isn’t. They’re both good and just as important in their own ways.

Big charities tend to work on their camps and to help those who have reached towards the borders where they’re now staying at the “refugee camps”

Aid Convoys on the other hand tend to try go further inside when possible and try to reach those who the big charities can’t get to for whatever reason.

The hospitals and make-shift clinics inside Syria rely on ambulances which are mostly bought in on aid convoys from the UK. Alhamdulillah the ambulances help save lives daily.

Please don’t take notice of anyone who advises you not to give to aid convoys. We try to get to the heart and further inside where sometimes people haven’t had meat for months. We try to get the aid to the most needy.

Many people inside Syria rely on aid convoys. And many rely on no charities to do their work too.

Those who haven’t been to Syria should refrain from commenting on aid convoys which they have no idea about.

May Allah accept everyone’s donations, efforts and duas and may He accept it from all of us and use us all as a means to help the oppressed ameen

Make dua for us and we make dua for you too. And please don’t forget the oppressed in your duas. Those who have had to go through real life nightmares after nightmares on the ground in Bilaad Al Shaam.

May Allah keep us all steadfast and protect us especially throughout these tough times which we’re going through. Ameen!”

The picture used in this article has no link to the four UK-based charities currently under investigation.

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