Barrister who misused gift aid overpayment from charity disbarred

Charity Commission: Investigation led to prosecution

A barrister convicted of dishonestly retaining a mistaken £240,000 overpayment of gift aid to his charity has now been disbarred as well.

Ahtiq Raja was handed a two-year community order in January 2020 following his conviction for theft.

Information supplied by the Charity Commission showed that he had transferred the money from the charity’s bank account to his private bank account and used it to buy a property which was held in the name of a private company of which he was sole director. The funds were subsequently repaid.

A Bar disciplinary tribunal found that Mr Raja behaved in a way which is likely to diminish public trust and confidence.

Mr Raja has 14 days to appeal against being disbarred. He was ordered to pay the Bar Standards Board (BSB) costs of £1,560.

A BSB spokesman said: “It is essential that the public can place their trust in barristers and that they act with honesty and integrity at all times.

“Acting in such a dishonest way which led to a criminal conviction is therefore a very serious matter for a barrister and the tribunal’s decision to disbar Mr Raja reflects this.”

The purpose of his Buckinghamshire based charity, GTC, was to relieve poverty in the UK, mainly in the area around Aylesbury.

The Charity Commission began investigating it in 2018 and published its findings two years later, after the sentencing.

These recorded that the charity was also operating in breach of its governing document. It had just one trustee in the years leading up to the inquiry meaning there were no other trustees to oversee and assist in decision-making processes or to appropriately manage conflicts of interest.

The commission was also concerned by “delays, gaps and a lack of clarity in the charity’s annual accounts” submitted to the regulator, some of which were not compliant with the charity accounting framework.

Mr Raja also failed to comply with a direction under the Charities Act which required him to attend a meeting and provide information to the commission.

The inquiry concluded that these failings amounted to misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity.

The conviction mean he was automatically disqualified from acting as a trustee or from holding a senior management role in any charity in England and Wales, until the conviction becomes spent in January 2023.

The charity no longer operates and was removed from the register of charities in April 2020.

Speaking on publication of the report in 2020, Amy Spiller, head of investigation teams at the Charity Commission said: “Our investigation uncovered appalling behaviour by someone who was in a position of trust, and it is right that they have been held to account for their actions.

“This case also exposed what can go wrong when there is a lack of oversight and poor governance within a charity.”

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