Charity millions ‘going to Syrian terror groups’
Some of their cash was “undoubtedly” going to extremist groups, said William Shawcross, the chairman of the Charity Commission.
Conditions on the ground in the midst of conflict made it difficult or impossible for charities to know where aid ended up, he said.
The Disasters Emergency Committee, which represents 14 of Britain’s biggest charities, has raised £20 million since the launch of its Syria Crisis Appeal in March. Its members include the British Red Cross, Oxfam and Save the Children.
But it said it was unable to guarantee that no cash was falling into the hands of terrorists.
The Charity Commission is so concerned that it has issued guidance to fund-raising bodies.
“A lot of money is raised that goes to Syria, some of it undoubtedly goes to extremist groups … It is very hard for all organisations to determine that,” Mr Shawcross said.
The commission said it was up to charity trustees to ensure that donors’ generosity, intended to benefit those in need, was not diverted to terrorists.
“There is a risk that funds raised in the name of ‘charity’ generally or under the name of a specific charity are misused to support terrorist activities, with or without the charity’s knowledge,” the commission said.
It warned that “individuals supporting terrorist activity might also claim to work for a charity and trade on its name and legitimacy to gain access to a region or community”.
Peter Clarke, a former head of anti-terrorism at the Metropolitan Police who sits on the board of the commission, said that donations could fall into the wrong hands once the money arrived in Syria or surrounding countries.