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Canada revokes registration of 2 charities over funding of Hizbul Mujahideen

Canadian tax authorities revoking the registration of a pair of organisations since an audit showed that some funds may have finally found their way to a group linked to the Hizbul Mujahideen.

world Updated: Jul 25, 2017 19:45 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times, Toronto
ISNA Islamic Services of Canada,Canadian Revenue Agency,Charities Directorate
Syed Salahuddin (left), Hizbul Mujahideen chief, is showered with flower petals as he arrives to speak at a news conference in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan on July 1.(REUTERS)

Canadian tax authorities have revoked the charitable status of two organisations citing how the donations may have been directed to a group linked to the Pakistan-based terrorist group Hizbul Mujahideen that is focused on Jammu and Kashmir.

While the decision taken by the Canadian Revenue Agency was based on an audit covering the period between 2007 and 2009, the move to cancel the charity status of the ISNA Islamic Services of Canada was taken in May this year. Another connected organisation, the Canadian Islamic Trust Foundation was also subjected to revocation. This action was first reported by the Canadian news network Global News.

A spokesperson for CRA confirmed the revocations to the Hindustan Times.

Notice of the revocation was sent on March 30 this year in a letter signed by the Director General of CRA’s Charities Directorate and addressed the ISNA Islamic Services of Canada’s legal representatives.

Among the aspects that CRA considered in terminating the Mississauga-based organisation’s status was that it issued tax receipts for funds collected at the Jami Mosque, “with the ultimate goal” of sending these to the Relief Organisation for Kashmiri Muslims or ROKM, which is based in Pakistan.

A footnote to a letter sent in June 2014 by CRA, stated, “Our research indicates that ROKM is the charitable arm of Jamaat-e-Islami, a political organisation that actively contests the legitimacy of India’s governance over the state of Jammu and Kashmir, including reportedly through the activities of its armed wing, Hizbul Mujahideen.”

It added that Hizbul Mujanideen is listed as a “terrorist entity” by the Council of the European Union and banned by India.

Given the “commonalities” in the directorship of HM, JeI and ROKM, “concerns exist that the funds collected and disbursed as part of this relief fund may have been used to support the political efforts of Jamaat-e-Islami and/or its armed wing Hizbul Mujahideen,” it said.

In addition to these two organisations delisted recently, another linked group, ISNA Development Foundation, had its registration cancelled in 2013. Again, among the reasons stated was that it “had entered into a funding arrangement with the Kashmiri Canadian Council/Kashmiri Relief Fund of Canada (KCC/KRFC), non-qualified donees” and that the “ultimate goal” was to send those funds to ROKM.

Responding to queries from HT, Zoltan Csepregi, a spokesperson for CRA, noted that the “confidentiality provisions of the Income Tax Act prevent CRA from discussing the affairs of a particular charity without the consent of an authorised representative.”

However, he did add, “As the federal regulator of charities, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) contributes to the government's efforts to combat terrorist financing by protecting the charity registration system in Canada from abuse.”

“As such, while the CRA may raise concerns about connections to terrorism, its role is to ensure administrative compliance with the requirements of charitable registration, as opposed to ensuring enforcement of criminal laws. Through its work, the CRA may take administrative action, in accordance with the Income Tax Act, where it has identified a risk of terrorist abuse in relation to a charity. This may include revocation of a charity’s registration.”

Meanwhile, the body to which these organisations are affiliated, Islamic Society of North America – Canada, issued a rejoinder on its website.

“The issue highlighted in the media that somehow the Jami Mosque sent donations to a group in Kashmir with terrorist links is not a valid representation,” it said.

“The Jami Mosque’s donations were sent for the express purpose of helping the poor and needy people.This is allowed by CRA. Where IISC failed is to exercise due diligence in the distribution of donations, allowing CRA to make a claim that the donations may have been misdirected to causes not in line with IISC’s mission.”

It added, “The present state of affairs is entirely different and the current operations are fully compliant with CRA requirements and ISNA Canada is continuing to operate as a registered charity.”

That was confirmed by the CRA, as its spokesperson said, “We can confirm that Islamic Society of North America – Canada (ISNA - Canada) is a registered charity.”

First Published: Jul 25, 2017 15:46 IST