Charities Services investigating Linwood Mosque finances

The charities watchdog is investigating the trust which runs the Linwood Mosque.

Charities Services has received and is assessing information about the Linwood Islamic Charitable Trust, and confirmed the trust is a month overdue in filing its latest annual return.

A complainant told Stuff they were concerned about the mosque finances, along with another six issues that could justify a complaint listed on the watchdog’s website, and knew of at least one other complaint made.

But the trustees deny there is anything wrong.

Department of Internal Affairs’ Charities Services general manager Stephen Reilly would not comment further while an investigation was ongoing, but said he was not aware if the trust’s delay in filing its returns was related to the information being assessed.

A complainant has shown a bank statement to Stuff showing a Crown payment of $100,000 was deposited into its account on May 31, 2019, followed by $5000 withdrawn as a cheque to Abdul Aziz Wahabzadah the same day.

Two trustees gave different reasons to Stuff for that payment.

Aziz, who is the trust’s treasurer, said he was surprised Stuff knew about the transaction, but claimed the money was used to fund a “big party” with about 300 attendees held for supporters of March 15 victims, at a hotel he refused to name.

Linwood mosque’s treasurer Abdul Aziz says he and the trust have nothing to hide.

It was authorised by all the trustees, he said, but when questioned further he said, “I don’t have to answer to you”.

He later denied he had said the money was used for a party, when imam and trustee Abdul Lateef told Stuff the cheque was made out to Aziz as a “gift” for his efforts on March 15.

”We appreciated his bravery. The trust decided to give him some of the money. But he is a well-to-do person, he doesn’t need anybody’s money.”

The complainant disputed Aziz’s original claim the $5000 was used for the party – which he understood him to be referring to an event at the Rydges Latimer in June 2019 – as he believed it was gifted by the hotel.

A spokeswoman from the Rydges Hotel confirmed the event was a gift or “freebie”.

The complainant questioned whether the trust had solid “paper trails”.

Linwood Mosque’s leader, Imam Alabi Lateef, inside the mosque.

“If it was for the party, why was it a cheque under his name, and not a direct payment?”

They believed the trust had not kept a record of which donations had been received, and what for.

“They have been asked by the community so many times to open their books, and they won’t do it.

“As soon as anyone questions them they get yelled at.”

Lateef said he believed the trust was being investigated because its annual returns were late.

“We have no concerns about our finances here.”

Aziz believed the investigation was about a rumour the mosque had not distributed $300,000 intended for victims.

He said the trust “happily” wanted the Government department to investigate and put rumours to rest.

“There is no $300,000. We don’t have anything to hide. They are most welcome any time to check all our accounts. We do everything by the book.”

Aziz said documents relating to the 2019 annual returns were with the trust’s accountant.

During an interview with Stuff, Aziz frequently mentioned the traumatised “forgotten victims”, his name for those who were in the mosque at the time of the Christchurch attacks but who weren’t killed or injured.

“I’m leader of those forgotten victims. The spokesman for them.”

He said they, including himself, got “only $17,000”. But he denied his motivation was money.

“I always said, ‘don’t pay me but pay the rest of the victims because I’m a leader of the mosque’.

“If you think I’m doing this for the money, please, don’t pay me.”

Aziz said he had accessed one hardship payment from the Christchurch Foundation.

Charities Services investigating Linwood Mosque finances