News story

Reminder for charities working in high risk areas overseas

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The Charity Commission has issued an alert to charities providing humanitarian aid in areas where terrorist and militant groups operate.

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Many charities carry out essential work to deliver humanitarian assistance and carry out development work for people who need it most in countries affected by disasters, famine, internal conflicts and military action. The risks of operating in many of these countries can be high and charities can face significant challenges in delivering that aid and assistance safely.

The risks are particularly high in certain countries and regions where it is known that terrorist organisations operate as it is inevitable that in some areas charities and their partners may come within close proximity of terrorist groups. However, trustees must ensure that their charity does not commit any offence under UK counter-terrorism legislation. This includes not providing funds or financial assistance to terrorist groups.

The Charity Commission is issuing this alert as regulatory advice under s15(2) of the Charities Act 2011. It reminds the trustees of those charities involved in working in high risk areas overseas that they must be vigilant, carry out proper monitoring and ensure they and their staff know that trustees, employees and volunteers of charities are under a legal duty to the police report suspicions that their funds may have been diverted for terrorist purposes (see endnote 1).

Charity personnel are under a legal requirement to disclose to the authorities a suspicion or belief that someone has committed an offence under sections 15 to 18 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which are offences connected with terrorist financing.

If they do not, they may commit a criminal offence. If trustees know or suspect that the charity’s funds may have been diverted for terrorist purposes, to a proscribed terrorist group or to an individual or entity designated under terrorist asset freezing laws, they must report this promptly. They can do so by reporting to the police or by submitting a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) to SOCA (see endnote 2).

Trustees should also report their concerns about diversion of charity money to the Charity Commission as a serious incident report.

The Charity Commission is also reminding trustees about the importance of carrying out due diligence checks and effective monitoring to verify the proper end use of funds. This is particularly important in areas under the control of terrorist groups.

For more regulatory guidance trustees can consult the Commission’s online toolkit Protecting charities from harm which provides the knowledge and tools trustees need to manage risks and protect their charities from terrorism, fraud and other forms of abuse. See the following chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Charities and terrorism. This includes modules covering various reporting requirements and the risks of committing terrorist financing offences.

  • Chapter 2: Due diligence, Monitoring and Verification of End Use of Charitable Funds.This covers trustees’ legal duties and responsibilities in carrying out appropriate due diligence checks on those individuals and organisations that give money to, receive money from or work closely with their charity, and to identify and manage any associated risks, along with practical advice on carrying out proper monitoring and verification of the end use of funds where charities give money to local partners and beneficiaries.

The Commission has previously issued online alerts and guidance for charities and the public on supporting humanitarian work in Syria in December 2012 and again in April 2013, and on Somalia in 2011.

SOCA has guidance available on its website on reporting SARs related to terrorist financing.

Ends

Endnotes

  1. S.19 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (as amended by Counter-Terrorism Act 2008) creates a positive legal duty to disclose information about certain possible terrorist offences to a constable.
  2. From 7 October 2013, the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Published 27 September 2013