THE Charity Commission has warned that Islamist extremism is the “most deadly” problem it faces and is urging the government to introduce laws to prevent convicted terrorists from setting up charitable organisations.
In his first interview since becoming the watchdog’s chairman in October 2012, William Shawcross told The Sunday Times: “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.”
He said the commission was taking tough measures against any charity that was “sending cash to extremist groups in Syria” or “dispatching young Britons for training in Syria by al-Qaeda or other extremist groups”.
“I’m sure that in places like Syria and Somalia and other [such] places, it’s very, very difficult for agencies always to know what the end use of their aid is. But they’ve got to be particularly vigilant.”
The regulator is investigating three charities raising funds for Syria and monitoring seven others.
Shawcross also attacked a “ludicrous” loophole in the charity commission’s law, which means that those convicted of terrorism or money-laundering offences are not automatically disqualified from setting up charities or becoming trustees.
Last month, he wrote to the prime minister requesting laws to strengthen the regulator’s powers. “It is ludicrous that people with convictions for terrorist offences are not automatically disqualified from serving as charity trustees,” he said.