LONDON (AFP) – The charity watchdog is checking into reports potentially linking suspects in an alleged airline bombing plot to an aid group raising money for earthquake relief in Pakistan last year.
The Charity Commission told AFP on Saturday it is examining reported links between the charity and the conspiracy to blow up US-bound planes but declined to say whether it had been approached by the police.
The Times newspaper said Saturday that Crescent Relief London, which mobilized for the October 8 earthquake in Pakistan, was created in 2000 by Abdul Rauf, from the central English city of Birmingham.
His 25-year-old son Rashid was arrested as a “key” plot suspect in Pakistan shortly before his 21-year-old son Tayib was arrested in Birmingham in an August 10 dragnet in Britain when police arrested a total of 24 suspects.
Rashid Rauf is alleged to have links to Al-Qaeda.
However, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said Tuesday that Rashid Rauf was unconnected with any charities involved with the earthquake, while denying a separate report that a Pakistani charity had diverted quake relief to the plot.
Pakistani officials said Friday that they had also detained Abdul Rauf, 52, at Islamabad airport, though it was unclear whether he was arrested for questioning about his son’s alleged role or whether he himself was a suspect.
The Times said that Crescent Relief may prove links between the Rauf family and the five people arrested in High Wycombe, in Buckinghamshire, northwest of London, on August 10.
The Times said the charity was operating in High Wycombe when all five suspects were helping with the earthquake relief effort.
A thousand tents were sent by High Wycombe to Pakistan through Crescent Relief London, it said.
An article in the Bucks Free Press said readers wishing to donate to that organization should contact Khuram Ali and gave a mobile phone number, the daily said. Ali is one of the five High Wycombe suspects held by police.
Contacted by AFP on Saturday about the Times reports, a spokeswoman for the watchdog read a statement saying: “The Charity Commission takes the issue of allegations concerning charities and terrorism very seriously.”
The New York Times and The Washington Post reported last week that the investigation is focusing on potential or alleged links between the suspects and charities.
“We are aware of the speculation raised in newspapers suggesting links between UK charities and the recent bomb plots.
“However, as a regulator for charities in England and Wales we use our legal powers on the basis of evidence.
“We are looking into the suggestions that have been made to decide what regulatory action may be required by us,” she said.
Asked whether London’s Metropolitan Police had contacted her commission, the spokeswoman replied: “We are in contact with a number of statutory agencies. And I really can’t say more than that. I would refer you to the Met.”
The Metropolitan Police declined to comment, while there was no response when AFP telephoned Crescent Relief London on Saturday. Crescent Relief’s website features harrowing photographs of the quake’s devastation.