The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs is “shocked” that federal officials have not yanked the charitable status of a British Columbia Islamic charity that’s alleged to have links to Hamas.
Recent media reports have said that the charity, which runs a Vancouver-area mosque, was penalized by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), after an audit found that its former president and imam spent tens of thousands of dollars on personal expenditures that were reimbursed by the charity.
But the charity, the Islamic Society of British Columbia, retained its tax status and was not otherwise penalized, even after the audit alleged that it had ties to Hamas, which Canada listed as terrorist organization in 2002.
The Islamic Society operates the Masjid Alhidayah & Islamic Cultural Centre in Port Coquitlam, B.C. Global News reported that it was formerly headed by Saadeldin Bahr, who is now serving a 3½-year prison sentence for a 2013 sexual assault at the mosque.
CRA documents obtained by Global News showed that during the period of the audit – Oct. 1, 2010 to Sept. 30, 2013 – Bahr purchased a variety of personal items, including a spa, jewelry, video games and hair dye, which were paid for with his personal credit card and then reimbursed with online bank transfers from the charity’s accounts.
The CRA audit also alleged that the Islamic Society was “controlled or influenced” by the Sheikh Eid Bin Muhammad Al-Thani Charity Foundation (the Eid Foundation), a Qatar-based group that allegedly has ties to terrorist organizations.
The Eid Foundation “maintained some level of control or influence over the affairs” of the B.C. Islamic group, CRA documents revealed.
The British Columbia Islamic group’s “connection to and possible control by the Eid Foundation is particularly concerning given that publicly available information … indicates that the Eid Foundation is alleged to have provided support to terrorism,” read a letter from the CRA Charities Directorate that was cited by Global News.
“Our research indicates that the Eid Foundation is a member organization (of) the Union of Good, a global coalition of Islamic charities operated by Hamas, a listed terrorist entity in Canada,” the letter went on.
CIJA CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel said, “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.”
In May, the CRA sent the Islamic Society of British Columbia a notice of penalty, indicating a proposed fine of $126,000 for Bahr’s spending. But that was never imposed, since the society said it removed him from its board and promised to tighten up its financial oversight.
‘The Eid Foundation is alleged to have provided support to terrorism.’
But the agency did impose a $9,000 penalty against the charity for issuing $182,000 worth of “non-compliant” donation receipts.
There was no penalty imposed in relation to the society’s alleged ties to the Eid Foundation or Hamas.
If the CRA identifies non-compliance as a result of an audit, it uses “an education-first approach, where possible,” agency spokesperson Zoltan Csepregi told The CJN.
That means the CRA will generally give a charity the chance to correct its non-compliance through education or a compliance agreement, before the agency resorts to other measures, such as sanctions, or revoking its charitable status, Csepregi explained.
Asked whether the CRA will pursue another audit of the Islamic Society of British Columbia over its alleged links to terrorism, Csepregi said the agency “can only make its actions public when they lead to the charity being revoked, annulled, suspended or penalized. For this reason, the CRA cannot disclose any future actions it may or may not take.”
The Islamic Society of British Columbia and Masjid Alhidayah serve Muslim communities in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, according to its website.
The mosque is the largest Sunni mosque in British Columbia, it adds.