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Opposition wants government to look into B.C. charity’s links to Qatar group

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WATCH: Global News has learned that a Canada Revenue Agency audit of the Islamic Society of B.C. shows tens of thousands of dollars of charitable money was spent for personal use. Rumina Daya has the details – Sep 27, 2017

A Jewish advocacy group said it was “shocked” the government had allowed a Canadian charity to remain registered despite a federal audit that alleged it was “controlled or influenced” by a group in Qatar accused of having ties to Hamas.

The Conservatives also called the matter “deeply troubling” and said they expected the government to look into the findings of the Canada Revenue Agency audit of the Islamic Society of British Columbia, which runs a Vancouver-area mosque.

READ MORE: Audit of B.C. mosque charity alleges personal spending, ‘relationship’ with Qatar group accused of supporting terror

Canada Revenue Agency’s national headquarters in Ottawa, Ont., on July 4, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg. Lars Hagberg/CP

Documents obtained by Global News show the CRA audit concerned the charity’s operations between October 2010 and September 2013, the month its then-president Saadeldin Bahr was arrested for a sexual assault in the mosque building.

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In a letter last year, the CRA raised concerns about the B.C. charity’s “connection to and possible control by” Qatar’s Eid Foundation, which auditors said was “alleged to have provided support to terrorism.”

The Eid Foundation is a member of the Union of Good, the CRA said. The U.S. Treasury calls the Union of Good “an organization created by Hamas leadership in late-2000 to transfer funds to the terrorist organization” and says it provides payments to the families of suicide bombers.

WATCH: Two worshippers at the Masjid Al-Hidayah and Islamic Cultural Centre speak with Global News about a Canada Revenue Agency audit that allegedly revealed troubling details about a charity in B.C. 

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Worshippers at the Masjid Al-Hidayah and Islamic Cultural Centre speak about the CRA audit – Sep 27, 2017

Hamas has been an outlawed terrorist group in Canada since 2002.

“The CRA established that a mosque in Canada is under the control of a foreign organization linked to a global coalition of charities operated by Hamas, a designated terrorist organization,” said Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

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“Given these links, we are shocked that the mosque’s charitable status was not revoked. All Canadians should be concerned about the flow of foreign funds into Canadian religious institutions. Clearly, the CRA’s disturbing findings require further investigation.”

Section of Canada Revenue Agency letter about its audit of the Islamic Society of B.C. CRA

Through its lawyer, Sebastian Elawny, the Islamic Society said it had responded to the CRA’s concerns and “the evidence was unequivocal in proving that the organization was not involved in any activities involving terrorism.”

Islamic Society directors was notified in June 2016 that there were “sufficient grounds” to revoke their charity status. But in a May 2017 letter, the CRA noted the charity had vowed to remove Bahr from the board and improve its record-keeping and internal controls.

The CRA imposed a $9,000 penalty for improperly issuing donation receipts, but did not penalize the charity for what the audit documents called the “relationship” with the Qatar group, which has itself denied financing terrorism.

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The auditors said the Eid Foundation had been contributing financially to the Islamic Society since 2005. During the period covered by the audit the Qatar group transferred almost $80,000 to the Islamic Society, the CRA said. Auditors also found transfers in February and July 2010 of $68,000, which the CRA said showed “an ongoing pattern of funding” from Qatar.

Saadeldin Bahr was sentenced to 3.5 years in jail for charges stemming from a 2013 incident. Photo courtesy Tri-City News

Qatar has been under pressure from its Arab neighbours in recent months over its alleged bankrolling of extremist groups in the Middle East.

“The CRA’s finding that a Canadian charity accepted funds from an organization with connections to terror financing is deeply troubling. ‎I expect the Liberal government to look into the matter,” said Pat Kelly, the Conservative national revenue critic.

Auditors also said charity funds had paid for $126,000 worth of personal spending by Bahr on items such as a spa, jewelry, video games and hair dye. Bahr is currently imprisoned for a 2013 sexual assault that occurred in the mosque building.

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Stewart.Bell@GlobalNews.ca