Charitys outrage as bank shuts its account

    Wednesday, 12th Jan 2009
    Telegraph & Argus

    A humanitarian charity in Bradford faces financial crisis after being told by a high street bank that its account is being closed.

    The Ummah Welfare Trust (UWT), which operates its global fundraising centre from offices in Manningham Lane, was informed without warning of Barclays Bank’s decision in a letter.

    The bank has given no reason for the move and it has refused to discuss it further.

    The UWT has said that the closure of the account will mean it could lose up to 30 per cent of its funding, much of which comes from direct debits and standing orders from anonymous donors.

    Although no reason has been given by the bank, the charity is concerned that it could be because it is an Islamic charity which works in Afghanistan, Palestine and Pakistan among more than 20 countries worldwide.

    Shoyeb Mayat, income manager at the UWT in Bradford, said: “Barclays told us we had 30 days before our account would be closed. It has since extended that by 21 days but it has given no explanation and has not even entertained the idea of meeting with us.

    “This will have a massive impact on our work. Moving our account is easy enough but we receive thousands of direct debits and standing orders, many of them anonymous so we cannot get back to those people to let them know.

    “Many people will see this as being because we are an Islamic charity. We are not conducting any untoward practices. We have met the Charity Commission which has said it has no problem with the work we do.

    “If there was any issue it would be up to the Commission to act. A bank does not have the right to try to shut us down.”

    Bradford West Labour MP Marsha Singh said he was very concerned by Barclays’ actions.

    He said: “Barclays has given no reason for the decision to close the account of the UWT.

    “I will be writing to it to demand an explanation. I will also be contacting the relevant Minister to find out exactly what the situation is.

    “From my knowledge of the UWT it operates under the auspices of the Charity Commission and does good and necessary work around the world. This will be a massive blow to that work. I am very concerned by the actions of Barclays.”

    Interpal, a Palestinian charity which the UWT has worked with in the past, has for two years been under investigation by the Charity Commission for its alleged links to Hamas.

    However, the Commission has told the Telegraph & Argus that UWT is not being investigated in any way and there is no suggestion that the charity has any connection to terrorism.

    A spokesman for the Commission said: “The Charity Commission for England and Wales opened an inquiry under section 8 of the Charities Act 1993 into the charity Interpal on December 15, 2006.

    “The scope of the investigation includes concerns about the potential for indirect and inappropriate links between the charity and organisations or individuals who appear to support the militant or terrorist activities of Hamas and the connected duties and responsibilities of the trustees.”

    When contacted by the T&A for an explanation why the UWT account was being closed, a Barclays spokesman said: “For reasons of client confidentiality, we are unable to provide any detail about the account. Naturally, Barclays has the right to close any account and when this happens these decisions are not taken lightly and are considered carefully on a case-by-case basis.”

    Original article can be viewed here.