Tories question Labour Wales links to Awema charity's boss

Carwyn Jones and Naz Malik
Image caption Carwyn Jones on the campaign trail with Naz Malik (rear), campaigning on behalf of Mr Malik's son in the 2011 assembly elections

The Conservatives in Wales have raised concerns about links between Labour and the boss of a charity facing allegations of financial mismanagement.

The Welsh government is investigating the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (Awema) and its chief executive Naz Malik.

Pictures on Facebook show Mr Malik on the 2011 campaign trail with First Minister Carwyn Jones.

Labour accused the Tories of trying to "muddy the waters with smear".

'Transparent inquiry'

The leader of the Conservatives in the assembly wrote to the first minister on Friday evening asking for assurances that the investigation into Mr Malik is a "full and transparent inquiry".

It comes after the author of a report into Awema said he had not been contacted by the Welsh government about its findings. The Welsh government is due to complete its own report into Awema next week.

Opposition leader Andrew RT Davies said: "I want the first minister to address this very serious allegation and give assurances that this isn't Welsh Labour looking after one of its own."

Mr Malik, who is also alleged to have bullied Awema staff, says it would be inappropriate for him to comment before the report is published.

A Labour Party spokesman said: "Official investigations into Naz Malik and issues at Awema are ongoing.

"Andrew RT Davies's attempt to muddy the waters with smear and innuendo should be viewed for what it clearly is - grubby politicking motivated by nothing more than a desire for a quick headline."

Mr Malik's son Gwion Iqbal Malik stood on Labour's Mid and West Wales regional list at last May's assembly elections.

Pictures on Facebook show him campaigning with the first minister. In one photo, his father Naz is seen standing behind Mr Jones at a voter's doorstep.

Image caption Awema deals with nearly £8.5m of public money, passing it to ethnic minority groups in Wales

A report commissioned by the charity's trustees recommended Mr Malik be suspended pending a disciplinary hearing. He received a written warning.

It says Mr Malik - Awema's chief executive since 2001 - used "Awema funds in an inappropriate way", including paying off credit card debts worth £9,340.

Report author Paul Dunn, the former head of an ethnic minority charity in England, told BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye programme that nobody from the police, Charity Commission or the Welsh government had contacted him.

Awema's newly appointed chair Dr Rita Austin told the programme she had made difficult decisions for the charity's benefit.

She said suspending Mr Malik "would have incurred the charity an enormous extra expense that I really could not justify on the very strong grounds that I already had and the trustees had a clear admission from Mr Malik".

The charity deals with nearly £8.5m of public money, passing it on to other ethnic minority groups in Wales.

Conservative AM Darren Millar, chairman of the assembly's public accounts committee, has written to the chief constable of South Wales Police asking for a full investigation and insisting he no longer has confidence in the current investigation.

The European Commission said it had confidence in the Welsh government's investigation into Awema, which has received funding from the European Social Fund (ESF).

A spokeswoman at its office in Wales said: "It was brought to its (the Commission's) attention that the Welsh European Funding Office has ceased funding to the organisation and that further investigation of the situation is being carried out by the Welsh government.

"The European Commission has confidence in the on-going Welsh government investigation and in the possible recovery of any ESF funding unfoundedly paid out."

South Wales Police said it received allegations of fraud in mid-December and passed to the Welsh government to carry out its own audit and internal investigation.

It said it was awaiting the outcome of that process and will then consider whether any criminal offences have been committed.

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