Charities watchdog in raid on Tamil agency

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The Independent Online

Charity investigators have frozen the bank accounts of a London-based refugee agency, and are also questioning three other charities accused of giving money to the Tamil Tiger guerrillas in Sri Lanka.

Charity investigators have frozen the bank accounts of a London-based refugee agency, and are also questioning three other charities accused of giving money to the Tamil Tiger guerrillas in Sri Lanka.

The Charity Commission raided the offices of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) in Walthamstow on Thursday and seized documents relating to its finances.

The Tamil Tigers - the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - are at war with the Sri Lankan government in a campaign for an independent state. Amnesty International says their forces have committed "deliberate and arbitrary killings of civilians, torture, hostage-taking and abductions".

The commissioners began investigation after a complaint by Lord Avebury, the vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group. They started a formal inquiry into the TRO when the charity failed to reply to a request for information. The other charities approached are the Tamil Refugee Training and Employment Centre, also in Walthamstow, the Tamil Refugee Action Group in Vauxhall, and Cancer Aid Sri Lanka in Hounslow.

Lord Avebury's complaint followed claims in the Island, a Sri Lankan newspaper, that several charities in the UK were controlled by the Tigers and used for fund-raising and propaganda; registering as charities had allowed them to move funds from the UK to Sri Lanka without paying tax.

A Canadian Senate committee found earlier this year that terrorist groups were using charities there to raise money. An adviser to the committee, Don Gracey, said later that the TRO, which operates in several countries, was one such body identified.

Yesterday the Charity Commission confirmed that it had launched a formal inquiry into the TRO under the 1993 Charities Act.

No one was available for comment at the TRO or Tamil Refugee Action Group. A trustee of Cancer Aid Sri Lanka said its activities were entirely above board, and a committee member of the Tamil Refugee and Employment Centre said it would be happy to put an end to rumour-mongering.

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