UK suspends £12m Syrian aid project amid terrorist funding claims

5 Dec 17

The UK has suspended a multi-million pound aid project in Syria following allegations that money was reaching the hands of extremists.

The Foreign Office said it has suspended the £12m programme while it investigates the allegations that money could have ended up with terrorist groups rather than the civilian police force Free Syrian Police, as intended. 

The allegations come as the BBC Panorama programme on Monday evening shone a light on the Foreign Office aid programme in Syria run by contractor Adam Smith International (ASI), who said the accusations were

Panorama’s allegations included police cooperating with courts that carry out summary executions, police being paid in cash and then being forced to hand over funds to an extremist group controlling the area, police officers being handpicked by an extremist group, and dead and fictitious people on the police payroll. 

The Free Syrian Police was set up following the uprising in the country, to ensure law and order was in place in the parts of the country controlled by opposition forces.

ASI has been running the project since October 2014. Britain was one of six donor countries paying for the project, the BBC said.

A UK government spokesperson said they take the allegations “of co-operation with terrorist groups and of human rights abuses extremely seriously”.

The spokesperson said: “The government is committed to getting the very best results for the world’s poorest and value for taxpayers’ money with its international development spend.

“With all the government’s aid spend we are focused on achieving results, providing value for money, and ensuring it is transparent and accountable.”

But ASI added the allegations were “untrue” or “entirely misleading”.

ASI interim CEO Jonathan Pell said:"There are high risks working in a fragile state in civil war.

“We mitigate those risks under the close control of the donors, and support AJACS because of its success in ending human rights abuses and establishing the rule of law in Syrian society.”

The Free Syrian Police project is supported by the Access to Justice and Community Security project (AJACS), run by Adam Smith International. 

Pell added: “ASI will continue to vigorously refute the BBC’s claims and defend the integrity of one of its most important projects.”

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