Galloway fund to be investigated

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Indy Politics

The charity watchdog announced yesterday it would investigate an Iraqi appeal fund founded by the MP George Galloway, who has been suspended by the Labour Party.

The decision to investigate the Mariam Appeal, which was initially set up to pay for the treatment of an Iraqi girl suffering from leukaemia, was denounced by Mr Galloway as a "politically motivated stunt". He said the appeal had never claimed to be a charity and his lawyers would challenge the jurisdiction of the Charity Commission.

The commission is looking into funds raised by the Mariam Appeal between March 1998 and April 1999. It wants to establish whether charitable funds were used for charitable purposes. The appeal moved beyond fund-raising for the sick child into a wider campaigning body to lift the Iraqi embargo. It shared an address and post office box with another organisation linked to Mr Galloway that campaigned on Palestinian issues.

The commission said: "The appeal carried out a range of fund-raising and other activities during its lifespan, and initial findings indicate that the funds raised under the terms of the original appeal were charitable. The commission needs to find out whether these funds were applied for charitable purposes, as required by the terms of the original appeal."

Mr Galloway announced last week that he had issued libel proceedings against The Daily Telegraph after it alleged he had taken £375,000 from Saddam Hussein's regime.