Police investigate rumours of missing cash at mosque

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POLICE are investigating allegations of “financial irregularities” at Edinburgh’s Central Mosque, it emerged today.

Detectives have been called in amid rumours of missing cash and in-fighting between Saudi and Pakistani Muslims.

Sources at the mosque say questions remain over the whereabouts of a £500,000 donation made by a Saudi prince in 1998, when the building was officially opened. There are allegations that the money, intended to pay for extra land at the site on Potterrow, has “disappeared”.

It is also believed that worshippers contacted the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) to ask the watchdog to scrutinise the mosque’s financial affairs.

A solicitor for the mosque today dismissed the allegations, which are said to have sparked tensions between Saudi and Pakistani worshippers.

When the mosque opened nearly 13 years ago, it was the late King of Saudi Arabia, Fahd bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, who provided 90 per cent of the funding. It is understood that religious elders from Saudi Arabia visited the mosque in December and are said to have pledged to resolve the tensions, but sources said little has changed.

A source said: “In 1998 when the mosque was opened, £500,000 was donated by a prince in Saudi Arabia intended to buy the land next door.

“The money was to be deposited in the account with the Clydesdale Bank in Nicolson Street. Now we are unable to get answers on where that money has disappeared to.

“It is doubtful that the Saudis have taken it back for any reason. After all these years, we still can’t get answers.

“Then there is £21,000 which seems to have been loaned to someone, but no-one can find out who received it. The mosque is run as a charity so funds should not be used to make loans to anyone. It is against the mosque’s constitution to hand money over to individuals like that.”

Worshippers have also raised questions about the financial management at the mosque.

Another mosque source said: “There are tensions between the Saudis and Pakistanis because the Saudis believe they are in control. The money to build the mosque came mainly from the Saudi Arabian government and, for this reason, there is a belief that everyone does not have the same right to know what is going on.”

A solicitor for the mosque said: “The mosque has been operating as a legitimate charity for over ten years and is required to post accounts in the proper way.

“There have never been any questions raised by the police, courts, or anyone else about the handling of its financial aspects.

“These allegations have come from a faction opposed to the mosque board who are flinging some mud on the financial side. There has been a lot of fighting at the mosque over the last six months because some people are not getting their way.

“This faction have gone to court trying for an interdict against the mosque board, but the case was dismissed.”

A police spokesman said: “Lothian and Borders Police can confirm an investigation is under way into allegations of financial irregularities at a place of worship in the south of Edinburgh. Inquiries are ongoing and no arrests have been made to date.”

An OSCR spokesman said: “OSCR will not confirm whether an individual charity is the subject of an ongoing inquiry.”

amcewen@edinburghnews.com