Has Adeem Younis funnelled nearly £6M of Penny Appeal funds into his own web of companies in plain sight?

Anon
37 min readSep 7, 2020

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The Charity Commission, and we, the donors, have utterly failed to properly investigate a charity mired in abuse, poor governance, no transparency, conflicts of interest, unethical practices and alleged personal enrichment by trustees and management.

This extensive dossier will attempt to shed light on a web of dealings, alleged abuses and shocking conflicts of interest.

Adeem Younis (Penny Appeal Founder) and Boxer Amir Khan

A summary of our findings

  • Adeem Younis (SingleMuslim Founder and Founder/Chairman/Trustee of Penny Appeal) is a central figure throughout
  • Adeem Younis and his network of private companies have extracted a known total of over £5.7M from Penny Appeal
  • Of this total £1M was extracted from Penny Appeal via Adeem Younis’s business partner at MB Trading House Limited, with the remainder (£4.7M) going directly to companies wholly or partly owned by Adeem Younis.
  • Of what is declared in the accounts, around £2.7M can directly be shown to received by Adeem Younis. The remainder is unclear.
  • Penny Appeal are yet again under investigation by the Charity Commission, with 2020 filed accounts showing large sums paid to connected companies before ties being severed.
  • Values of donated services made by companies belonging to Adeem Younis appear inflated and are not any actual real transfer of capital. Often used as a way to legally reduce Corporation Tax liabilities.
  • Penny Appeal accounts have much to be desired in terms of disclosing payments made to companies connected to the Trustees/Management
  • Penny Appeal has thus far disclosed payments of over £4.6M made to British Muslim TV — real figure likely much higher
  • Adeem Younis and his companies also then had commercial agreements with BMTV and received monies from BMTV
  • BMTV used as a vehicle to aggressively advertise Penny Appeal as well as SingleMuslim (private business owned by Adeem Younis)
  • Adeem Younis and business partner Imtiaz Khan jointly extracted funds from Penny Appeal via MB Trading House Limited
  • Aamer Naeem allegedly received a generous salary for both Editor in Chief role at BMTV as well as CEO of Penny Appeal at the same time
  • Spat between Aamer Naeem and Adeem Younis led to Adeem being sacked as Chairman (later reinstated) and Aamer Naeem resigning his posts and directorships, following disagreements around finances.
  • Over the last 8 years on average, 63% of Penny Appeal income has reached the intended recipients. 28% of total funds raised was spent on fundraising costs/admin.
  • Penny Appeal orphanages in The Gambia are shut down by the government for allegedly operating without licences as well as testimony of child sexual and physical abuse and poor living conditions
  • Alleged reports of similar abuses at the orphanages in Pakistan which were not reported/investigated
  • Penny Appeal has twice referred itself to the Charity Commission.
  • Boxer Amir Khan released a statement saying he had cut ties with Penny Appeal in 2018 following deficiencies he observed
  • Alleged instances of bot fraud and unethical practises employed on SingleMuslim
  • SingleMuslimVIP founded on the basis of alleged theft of data, breaching a signed NDA with a competitor (BeyondChai)
  • Global One used as charity partner on BMTV during period in which Adeem Younis was sacked
  • Numerous GDPR breaches — Reports of customer data allegedly stolen from Penny Appeal/SingleMuslim and used to spam thousands in aid of Global One
  • No one has faced any punishment or been removed as a result of the numerous failings at the organisation
  • It has been over a year since this dossier was published, with zero response from the charity or the Muslim community at large.

Recent child sexual abuse scandal

News reports from EyeAfrica TV aired on the 14th August 2020, detailing a litany of allegations of sexual and physical abuse of children at an orphanage run by Penny Appeal and their partners in The Gambia.

Initial news report from Eye Africa TV

The Gambian government conducted an investigation, and found cases of sexual abuse and exploitation of orphan children in their care. Moreover the orphanage was allegedly to have been run without a licence.

A statement by Gambian government officials said Penny Appeal-Gambia had been operating illegally in the country and according to The Voice:

“managing its orphanages in The Gambia without following the due process of registration….It is against this background that the general public is informed that Penny Appeal -The Gambia is hereby temporarily closed with immediate effect pending the outcome of the full investigation relating to exploitation of children, sexual abuse and other child protection matters,”

As has been the case with many scandals surrounding Penny Appeal, a statement of clarity is never immediate or forthcoming and only emerges once furore builds up.

Penny Appeal UK issued the following statement on their website on August 14 , with the incident described by Penny Appeal as a mere ‘safeguarding issue’:

“On 13th August 2020 Penny Appeal became aware of an alleged safeguarding issue in Gambia at a local community based organisation supported by our partner organisation, Penny Appeal Gambia.

Their statement was toothless, condescending and utterly sought to downplay the most severe of incidents.

To say we were horrified to learn of this incident is an understatement. It shook us to our core — possibly the worst case real world result of chronic mismanagement and lack of genuine care for those who needed it most.

Following continued uproar on social media, the charity were then in damage limitation mode, with the Interim CEO ( we will come to that title later) Harris Iqbal reading a prepared statement, offering a ‘root and branch review’ of their operations:

He ended this statement with:

“That is my promise and I invite you to hold me to account.”

This exhaustive piece is a direct call to the donors and trustees of Penny Appeal and moreso, the Charity Commission, to finally hold this organisation to account and provide answers to the many questionable practices and actions taking place.

This recent scandal is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to years of alleged malpractice at Penny Appeal.

To assist in this process, we have put together this extensive dossier of questions, facts and examples of the manner in which those behind Penny Appeal allegedly operate.

Armed with our findings, we invite you, the donors and wider Muslim community to demand answers and only then form your own judgement.

We plead with the Charity Commission and you the public, to not let our findings be brushed under the carpet yet again.

Update: As of 2021 we are still yet to hear any updates in relation to this scandal. 2021 accounts said a review was completed, however this review and its findings have not been made public.

Abuse of amanah

For those who have followed the growth of Penny Appeal, they will be aware of the many reports of mismanagement, infighting, high ‘admin’ costs and the generally poor reputation the organisation has.

Despite this, they have continued to grow, raising over $30M this year, with little accountability or real scrutiny.

It must be made clear — of course there is surely some good that comes from a growing charitable organisation which is able to somewhat deliver on the ground. However this naive and ‘trusting’ approach equally allows for gross and repeated abuse to be overlooked.

Penny Appeal is a charity that has repeatedly, and with impunity, abused the amanah (trust) it holds with its donors and recipients.

This cannot be allowed to continue.

Who is behind Penny Appeal?

Penny Appeal was founded in 2009 by Wakefield based Adeem Younis, founder of SingleMuslim.com. Adeem Younis, Chairman, is also one of three trustees at the charity.

Penny Appeal also has links to British Muslim TV (an independently owned company) which we will later explore.

Much of this study will focus on the alleged gross conflicts of interest that exist between SingleMuslim — Penny Appeal — British Muslim TV, and other companies owned or linked to PA trustees and management.

We will also study vast questionable transfers of charitable donations that have taken place both in plain sight as well as allegedly behind closed doors.

We will also look at the general and questionable ethics and business tactics exhibited by Adeem Younis — a central figure throughout.

Once the entire history of these organisations have been studied, it becomes clear that many of the trustees and senior management are clearly not fit and proper.

Penny Appeal

Incorporated in 2008 as a Private Limited Company, it currently has three Directors/Trustees, who each have ownership/directorship of other private companies:

Adeem Younis

  • Director of Penny Appeal, GoWebPrint, SingleMuslim, Penny Appeal Trading Company, Mayfair Morris Limited. Mayfair Morris Limited is a property investment company, and we believe has leased offices to Penny Appeal and hence has received rental income from the charity.
  • We note that for a period of 1.5 years, Adeem’s then marital partner was also a Director, and resigned the position in March 2017.

Rizwan Khaliq

  • Director of Penny Appeal, Child Relief Limited, Maiz Marketing Limited

Ian Wainwright

  • Director of Penny Appeal, Wakefield Bondholders Limited, Wakefield Bid

Imtiaz (Mal) Khan is an individual of importance:

  • A close friend and business partner of Adeem Younis and also a director of MB Trading House Limited, director of Mayfair Morris (co owned by Adeem), resigning in 2015. Interestingly he is also a director of Muslim Marriage Events Limited (the events company which ran SingleMuslim matrimonial events).
  • We are of the understanding he works closely alongside Adeem at SingleMuslim and British Muslim TV and has also been involved to some degree with Penny Appeal operations.
  • Imtiaz (Mal) Khan was found not guilty at a third and final trial of £400,000 credit card fraud in 2007 as reported on the BBC.

Aamer Naeem OBE CEO from 2014–2020, is another individual of importance.

  • Director of Penny Appeal Ventures, Penny Ventures, Child Relief Limited (alongside Rizwan Khaliq), Innov8 Creative Solutions, Innov8 Training Solutions and Muslim Business Services.
  • He was also Editor in Chief at British Muslim TV and was received a salary of over £115,000 per year. This is in addition to his salary as CEO of Penny Appeal (which we estimate to be over £50,000). We estimate therefore he was receiving a total income from these two roles of approximately £180,000 per year.
  • He stepped down in 2020 following allegations of bullying and infighting and the sacking of Adeem Younis (Chairman). More on that later.

It’s all in the Penny Appeal accounts

We have sourced filed accounts from 2011–2020. We then attempted to analyse the sums of money which were extracted from Penny Appeal by Adeem Younis and his companies.

The charity’s operations only stepped up meaningfully from 2014 onwards.

This was the year a scathing article published by 5pillars claimed only 27% of its donations that year actually reached the needy. Aamer Naeem then issued a rebuttal which was published in full on 5pillars, claiming this was ‘misleading journalism’.

Money extracted

Below is a table showing monies extracted from Penny Appeal into companies owned by Adeem Younis. All figures sourced from the filed accounts at Companies House.

We have unconfirmed reports that some of the offices leased by Penny Appeal are in fact owned by Adeem Younis/Mayfair Morris and we are probing this further at present.

We request Penny Appeal to clarify this and details sums paid to date for said lease. Also whether there was a tender process, and to what extent the lease is verified at being genuinely at a true fair market value.

Our analysis shows a total of over £2.6M directly extracted from Penny Appeal over 10 years by Adeem Younis. Note — these are just figures that have actually been disclosed in the accounts.

Looking deeper into the 2018, 2019 and 2020 set of accounts, we note things become very complex indeed.

British Muslim TV

Payments of nearly a total of £5M are made from Penny Appeal into Esplanade Vale Media Limited (British Muslim TV).

Esplanade Vale Media Limited then made payments to Adeem Younis owned companies for various services.

In short — over £4.6M is funnelled to BMTV which then pays Adeem Younis companies a total of £2.28M.

We will look further into this later.

Donated Services

We note that there is mention in the returns, of services ‘donated’ by Adeem Younis companies with an ‘open market value’ supplied. These figures are merely approximations which we feel are grossly overstated, and are not any actual transfer of real capital into Penny Appeal.

It is important also to note that these ‘donated services’ are often used to legally reduce Corporation Tax payable on income of the donor companies involved.

Donated Services from companies connected to Adeem Younis are summarised below.

From our investigation into the website created, and a typical real world estimated fair value of any such databases used, we find these figures above to be grossly inflated and that much of this was in fact, possibly used as a means to reduce tax liabilities on private companies connected to Penny Appeal.

MB Trading House rears its head

The 2018 accounts made no mention of monies paid to MB Trading House Limited.

The 2019 accounts interestingly suddenly note the below:

2019
2020

Thus far a stated total of £1.1M has been paid to a company owned by a business partner of Adeem Younis.

Clear conflict of interest

  • The key question here is, why are trustees ultimately receiving funds via Penny Appeal through such obscure means?
  • Who determines fair value pricing for such services?
  • Is there a open and transparent tender process for any external services required including office leases?
  • Who determines that a total of £4.6M of donor funds can be funnelled to finance British Muslim TV — an independently owned company, who then contractually pays both the (then) CEO of Penny Appeal as well as Adeem Younis — a Penny Appeal trustee — via his network of companies?

There are NO checks and balances to ensure that any such services are accurately and fairly priced, nor is there a transparent competitive bid process.

  • Why is it not made clear to donors that Penny Appeal essentially finances British Muslim TV operations almost entirely?
  • We demand Penny Appeal state in a detailed yearly record all payments made to each of the entire list of companies listed above as being connected to the CEO, Trustees and other parties (such as Innov8 Training/Consulting, owned by Aamer Naeem)
  • Why is Adeem Younis able to preferentially provide services, including office leases, to Penny Appeal, seemingly at a cost he determines himself?
  • Why are business partners of Adeem Younis able to preferentially provide services to Penny Appeal, seemingly at a cost they determine between themselves?
  • Why have such clear conflict of interests been allowed to continue for so long?
  • Why does a charity which has raised over £30M only have 3 trustees?

High costs

Penny Appeal are one of the most notorious Muslim charities when it comes to quick and high quality marketing. With slick videos and graphics, they have really mastered the art of exploiting a disaster, big or small.

It is a charity with no real focus — quick to jump on the latest emergency and aggressively raising funds, despite not being the best suited organisation to serve that particular need. The primary need is merely to grow donor revenues at any cost.

Endless printed literature is constantly mailed out, and requests to stop are ignored.

During Ramadan they plough huge amounts of capital into extensive online ad campaigns, even resorting to aggressively bidding on ‘competing’ Muslim charities keyword names with a view to effectively stealing their traffic.

They also are quick to court celebrities such as James Caan, Amir Khan (who later distanced himself from Penny Appeal after ‘concluding the operation is deficient’) and actress Mehwish Hayat. It is not made clear how much these individuals are paid for their involvement nor what services or benefits they received from Penny Appeal.

Their army of ‘orange volunteers’ are numerous. However equally, they have a large and growing number of employees, totally 174 according to 2019 accounts.

Customer Data passed around — breach of GDPR?

It has been publicly disclosed that the SingleMuslim email and phone number database (and any other data collection methods they employed) were used by Penny Appeal to market their charity and campaigns.

We note SingleMuslim’s Terms state:

“Personal Information Policy
We specifically ask when we need information that personally identifies you (‘Personal Information’). For example, if you wish to register as a member of the Site, we ask you for your name and email address. We provide your Personal Information to relevant third-parties from whom you may purchase products or services through the Site and to the sponsors of any competitions on the Site in which you participate. We also use your Personal Information to operate the Site and to keep you up to date with new features of the Site. We may, occasionally, use your Personal Information to inform you of new services and products from us. We may also provide your Personal Information to carefully selected third parties. If you do not wish to receive such information from us or directly from other suppliers please inform us in writing.”

Was this legal? Is this still legal in line with recent GDPR regulations which aimed to better control precisely such behaviour?

Can Penny Appeal clarify whether this has continued post the introduction of GDPR legislation?

We will return to this topic again shortly.

Cost of raising funds

Many charities choose to retain donor funds from year to year for large projects or as a buffer. This is sensible financial practice.

With a view to more cleanly trying to determine, on average, how much of your donation is sunk into costs vs what is spent that year or allocated to charitable activities, we have summarised this below.

This shows, on average over the last 10 years:

63% of Penny Appeal income has reached the intended recipients.

28% of total funds raised was spent on fundraising costs/admin.

Though the trend is improving and a weighted average yields slightly better ratios, Penny Appeal still ranks as one of the worst charities when it comes to their cost base and the actual proportion of funds which reach the intended recipients.

Note — cost of raising funds was lower in 2021 due to the pandemic.

Penny Ventures

Penny Ventures was an entity created by Penny Appeal to essentially allow investment into entrepreneurs whereby the income generated would be channelled to humanitarian efforts.

It will formed as a result of a collaboration between Adeem Younis and James Caan, whereby it invited investors to participate:

As a PR opportunity, James Caan and his involvement was certainly maximised.

We believe this Gala dinner never happened, and all costs in setting up this venture ultimately were wasted. Social accounts and company accounts appear dormant very quickly after formation, either due to a lack of interest or commitment.

We note Aamer Naeem resigned his directorship of Penny Appeal Ventures Limited following his resignation as CEO of Penny Appeal.

Kid CEO

We are of the understanding that Pedro Carvalho of FNIK PR is tasked with managing the PR efforts of Single Muslim and Penny Appeal.

In 2019, a new PR marketing tactic was employed, with the introduction of Kid-CEO — 11 year old Shakira Rahman, brought in to ‘make sure children’s issues are at the heart of Penny Appeals future’.

As a marketing ploy, it was a real coup, securing major mainstream press and TV coverage.

It was stated that Aamer Naeem, actual CEO met her at a pantomime show:

The actual, adult CEO of Penny Appeal Aamer Naeem says that he first met Shakira at a pantomine show that Penny Appeal was sponsoring and he was impressed with her youthful enthusiasm and her idealism. He said that she wants to change the world and has a ‘can do’ attitude. For those reasons, he thought Shakira would fit right in as a child CEO of Penny Appeal.

We are of the understanding she is instead the daughter of someone connected to the PR company or a director of Penny Appeal itself.

Can Penny Appeal clarify this?

MY Helpline

Not to be confused with the Muslim Youth Helpline — a long running call service for Muslims in need. Penny Appeals own ‘rival’ helpline service was launched by none other than the kid CEO — Shakira Rahman, who was wheeled out to speak on the new initiative.

Here she spoke of the need of such a service, stating that there was no where else for the youth to go to to talk about such matters.

This was also the original stance of Penny Appeal, who disregarded the work done for many years by the well established Muslim Youth Helpline.

This then led to a uproar online, where many sought to defend the work of Muslim Youth Helpline and the disrespect shown to it by Penny Appeal.

Dr Bilal Hassam, a director at British Muslim TV, originally an ‘expert’ team member of SingleMuslimVIP (since removed), vocal defender of Penny Appeal and personal friend of Adeem Younis again chose to defend this new initiative.

With the considerable hurt felt by many, Penny Appeal later published a statement stating they had assisted and funded Muslim Youth Helpline, however at the end of the three year funding period they would have the option to look at alternatives as they felt the service was not sustainable.

Penny Appeal has referred ITSELF to the Charity Commission TWICE

We will now look into both incidents which took place in 2019 (financial irregularities) and 2020 (Child Abuse scandal in The Gambia).

For any charity to regularly refer itself to the Charity Commission for major incidents, and for so business to ‘carry on as normal’ is an early indication of a lack of real oversight or controls and internal governance failures.

Those in power are keen to maintain the status quo and protect their interests.

October 2019 — Chairman Adeem Younis sacked

Let us now look back to events which took place in October 2019, which mark the first initial and public spat between the CEO Aamer Naeem and Chairman Adeem Younis.

This incident should have served as a warning shot to possible suspicious activity taking place at Penny Appeal.

Much of this is based on news reports and conversations with those connected to Penny Appeal.

It is believed that Adeem Younis was sacked as Chairman and Trustee by the CEO whilst he was in Pakistan alongside James Caan and actress Mehwish Hayat. It is further believed that locks on the Penny Appeal offices were changed, with some expensive items removed.

It is understood and reported that both had argued with each other over finances, spending, and the contracts signed involving celebrities.

It is then believed the charity trustees had submitted a “serious incident report” to the Charity Commission. Note it is the legal obligation of trustees to report serious incidents to the Charity Commission under the Charities Act.

It is important to remember, that during this entire saga, no statement was published by Penny Appeal to clarify the goings on at the organisation. As is often the case, they attempted to keep such information out of the press as much as possible and ‘carry on as normal’.

This is the level of respect and obligation they have towards you — the donors.

As various whistleblowers then sought to publish various unsubstantiated comments regarding impropriety and suspicious financial dealings at the charity, Penny Appeals PR agency went into overdrive, hinting at legal action against individuals online.

We note that mention has been made of payments possibly made to Innov8 companies owned by Aamer Naeem. Can Penny Appeal clarify this?

We note that many of these whistle blower twitter accounts and tweets have now been deleted.

December 2019 sees Aamer Naeem resign as CEO of Penny Appeal, with Harris Iqbal installed as Interim CEO.

July 2020 sees Adeem Younis reinstated to his position at Penny Appeal as Chairman and Trustee, stating that he had asked for full transparency through his lawyers and demanded an independent appraisal of the charity’s governance. He stepped aside until the law firm, Simons Muirhead & Burton LLP, released its findings.

We note this is the legal firm used by Penny Appeal for many years. It therefore cannot be considered as truly independent.

We ask Penny Appeal to publish the details of this investigation and outcome.

We also ask for clarity around the nature of the suspicious activity involving Adeem Younis and Aamer Naeem on the run upto and during this entire incident.

Yet again — the charity has been extremely tight lipped on this matter and has attempted to quickly return to business as usual.

No clear explanatory statement has been made to date by Penny Appeal on this matter.

Update — 2020 Charity Commission Compliance Case opened

The latest set of accounts show that PA are currently under investigation with respect to governance issues. From our research we do not believe the charity made any press release regarding this matter.

What is more interesting is that the 2020 accounts now show an end to the relationship between various companies owned or controlled by Adeem Younis and Penny Appeal, however 2021 accounts still show flows of funds going back to Adeem Younis.

Child Abuse scandal — Penny Appeal again refers itself to the Charity Commission

We return to now discuss the horrific and heartbreaking child abuse scandal at the Gambian Orphanages run by Penny Appeal and it’s partners.

TRTWorld covered the story in their news piece below.

There are a number of key points alleged in the reports:

  • Children living in cramped and poor condition at the orphanages
  • Allegations of sexual abuse by other children and other adults
  • PA orphanages were operating in The Gambia without a licence. Why?
  • Orphanages were described as bad an inadequate
  • Penny Appeal were receiving £186 per child per quarter, however PA only gave £50 per child to the orphanage itself.
  • Children here were used to gather funding, however these funds were not spent in full on the children.
  • Children testify to being beaten
  • Children sleeping on the bare floor
  • Children moved around between orphanages
  • All orphanages run by PA closed by the Gambian authorities
  • PA presented images of clean spacious and wholesome media images of the orphans
  • PA using black children as props for marketing campaigns
  • Videos recorded of Adeem Younis and other PA staff at the orphanages with the children have been removed from social media
  • Penny Appeal UK chose not respond to the African TV news channels investigating and reporting on the incident

Again, Penny Appeal were very slow in publishing a statement on the matter. As word (and anger) spread of this latest incident, Penny Appeal then released this statement.

Considering the severity of what has been taking place, this is a remarkably lightly worded choice of phrasing.

As many in the Muslim community found this statement incredibly lackluster and vague, Harris Iqbal (Interim CEO) then read his prepared statement as described at the top of this piece.

Here, further interesting points were raised in his statement:

“All children we support in the Gambia have now been returned to their guardians and are safe.”

Why are children being taken away from their ‘safe’ guardians to live in an orphanage to be mistreated?

“Our organisations future will centre around safeguarding best practice with rigourous oversight and accountability”

This statement is especially problematic. We refer to the below statements published by Penny Appeal in 2018 and 2018 as to their safeguarding practices.

Extract from 2018 and 2019 Report

Clearly if the alleged sexual abuse incidents occurred, these statements above are empty and false promises of undertakings.

Possible sexual and child abuse at Penny Appeal Pakistan orphanages?

Given the above states that all safeguarding incidents are logged, we would now like to refer to the charities knowledge and investigation of unconfirmed reports of alleged abuses of a similar nature occurring at a number of their Pakistan orphanages.

  • Can Penny Appeal clarify if there is any truth to these reports of similar abuses in Pakistan?
  • Can Penny Appeal clarify when they found out, what was investigated, who was informed and what action was taken?
  • Can Penny Appeal clarify why, if such incidents were reported, was no mention made to the Charity Commission or indeed to donors.

Amir Khan

This leads on to a statement made by boxer Amir Khan, who had collaborated with Penny Appeal in respect of their orphanage projects.

Following the initial news reports regarding the alleged child sexual abuse taking place, Amir Khan sought to publicly distance himself from Penny Appeal (moreso given footage of him appeared in many of the news reports), stating that he found their ‘internal processes deficient’.

The full statement can be found below:

We would like to ask Amir Khan to:

  • Explain further his findings in terms of poor governance at Penny Appeal and his exact observations which led to him severing ties with them in 2018
  • To share the nature and findings of his own independent investigations financed by his Foundation
  • Why he only decided to speak up 2 years later regarding his concerns? This has proved to be hugely disastrous, as speaking up at the time would hopefully have led to the children involved being better protected from abuse from the outset.

Donations intended for orphans being directed elsewhere

Following reports of the above scandal, donors on social media discussed some of their experiences with Penny Appeal and attempted to ascertain where exactly their donations had been going.

One such example above discusses how, after months of chasing, she was told that her donation was instead routed to ‘most needed’ against her wishes.

Other donors mentioned never receiving a ‘Welcome Pack’ or any details about the actual orphans they had sponsored, and being fobbed off by the charity.

Adam Kelwick statement

Following the incident, Adam Kelwick, a well regarded Muslim Chaplain from Liverpool published the below statement regarding Penny Appeals behaviour:

We believe his statement sums up our feelings entirely on this matter. We also urge him to speak up regarding the ‘terrible things going on behind the scenes’ that he is aware of.

Islamic Relief — swift action taken

Considering the severity of the abuses taking place at Penny Appeal, and the severe lack of culpability, drastic change, or indeed resignations of those involved, we thought it apt to compare the actions of Islamic Relief in relation to a recent incident that occurred at their organisation.

Reports surfaced of one of their trustees (Heshmat Khalifa) publishing anti Semitic posts on social media.

Islamic Relief Worldwide were then made aware, and proceeded to replace the entire board at the organisation in an attempt to improve governance and prevent a repeat of such behaviour.

Thus far, no one at Penny Appeal has faced any action as a result of the numerous severe failings at their organisation.

Esplanade Vale Media Limited — also known as British Muslim TV

We now move on to discuss the final piece of this trifecta of major companies connected to Penny Appeal.

Esplanade Vale Media Limited, also known as British Muslim TV (BMTV) was incorporated and launched in 2014 and has Arshad Ashraf as its sole Director.

The accounts do not show anything especially notable, except that in 2019 they recorded an average number of 18 employees working there.

British Muslim TV, for many years have almost exhaustively run Penny Appeal adverts as well as live Penny Appeal fundraisers for a large proportion of their air time. 5Pillars watched their initial content and felt that due to high level of Penny Appeal content broadcast, British Muslim TV should rename itself “Penny Appeal TV”.

In this piece back in 2014, they asked:

Are any of the funds that are being donated to Penny Appeal being channeled back into British Muslim TV? And is the channel really there to serve the needs of British Muslims or is it purely a vehicle for a dating business and a charity?

This question between these organisations thus far has remained unanswered by Penny Appeal, and only recently in these latest set of PA accounts was such a bombshell disclosure made.

We refer again to the Penny Appeal 2019 annual return which shows payments of £1.3M (2018), £1.7M (2019) and £675,000 (2020) made from Penny Appeal into Esplanade Vale Media Limited (British Muslim TV).

Esplanade Vale Media Limited then made payments to Adeem Younis owned companies for various services.

2019 extract

Interestingly the 2020 accounts states that Penny Appeal ceased trading with Esplanade Vale Media on 30th Sept 2019. However payments continue to be paid to this company to present day.

We request Penny Appeal to disclose, the total sums paid to Esplanade Vale Media Limited for each year in turn from 2014, and the proportion of which was also channelled back to Adeem Younis.

We also would like to ask them why such a disclosure was not made in previous years in their annual return.

We also have further questions we would demand answers to:

  • Who owns BMTV and what are the links between PA, Adeem Younis and BMTV?
  • Who decides what is an acceptable amount of donor money to transfer from Penny Appeal to BMTV?
  • Who decides what ad rate should be charged? How is fairness determined?
  • Is there any benchmark to compare this to?
  • Do BMTV get a proportion of all funds raised via their live fundraisers?
  • Do BMTV presenters get a proportion of all funds raised via their live fundraisers? Have they ever?
  • Can Penny Appeal clarify if Aamer Naeem held the role of CEO of Penny Appeal and Editor in Chief at BMTV at the same time?
  • If so, why was Aamer Naeem allowed to hold the position of Editor in Chief at British Muslim TV where he received a salary of over £115,000 per year. This is in addition to his salary as CEO of Penny Appeal (which we estimate to be over £50,000).
  • Can BMTV clarify the precise nature of the services provided by Adeem Younis and his network of companies to which he received such large sums? To what extent were these fairly priced and part of an open tender process?
  • Can BMTV disclose any payments made to MB Trading House Limited and Imtiaz Khan’s involvement in BMTV affairs?
  • How did other trustees at Penny Appeal allow these transactions to take place?
  • Why was this clear conflict of interest allowed to take place for so long?

Finding Fatimah

Finding Fatimah is a British romantic ‘comedy’ written and directed by Oz Arshad in his directorial debut.

Producer, Sol Harris, and director, Oz Arshad, took the project to British Muslim TV where it was funded with the intent of being toured as a means of charity fundraising for Penny Appeal.

Executive Producer is listed as Arshad Ashraf (director of BMTV).

As per the Wikipedia entry, the film was produced on a budget of £325,000. Penny Appeal toured the film, screening it a total of 23 times in 19 different cities.

It is also important to note, the film contained various in-movie advertisements for the SingleMuslim service.

Where did the funding for this movie ultimately come from?

Following the cashflows it certainly appears Penny Appeal transferred funds into BMTV, who then financed this movie and in turn used it as some means of both advertising SingleMuslim as well as a charity fundraising mechanism.

Can Penny Appeal clarify this, and can they also explain why this was not made transparent to donors at the time?

Following the ‘attempted coup’ Penny Appeal breaks away from BMTV

We observed some suspicious changes at BMTV during the time at which Adeem Younis was sacked as Chairman/Trustee of Penny Appeal (Oct 2019).

We observed, that from this time, up until Adeem Younis was reinstated as Chairman at Penny Appeal, and post the resignation of Aamer Naeem as CEO, BMTV did not broadcast any Penny Appeal adverts, nor any live fundraisers.

During Ramadan 2020, all live fund raising and adverts were pushing a new charity called Global One.

Can Penny Appeal elaborate why their ‘partnership’ with BMTV was suspended for this period?

Why only on the return of Adeem Younis, were Penny Appeal ads reinstated on BMTV?

Who are Global One?

Global One, registered in 2014, describe themselves as a ‘UK based Muslim women-led international development charity created under the leadership of Dr Husna Ahmad OBE’.

It is certainly odd that a relatively small obscure charity is afforded full TV coverage on BMTV.

We would like to ask the trustees of Global One to clarify as to the arrangement they had with BMTV, in particular any fees paid by them, or indeed any % of all funds raised during the live fundraisers on that channel.

Aya Hachem Murder

On the 17th May 2020, Aya Hachem, a 19 year old law student was shot in a drive-by in Blackburn.

That very same day — the day of her actual murder, Global One posted various posts on social media and set up a JustGiving page with a view to “build a legacy, as Sadaqah Jariyah, for sister Ayah in the form of Water Wells for vulnerable women and girls in water scarce communities”.

We are of the understanding, this money was raised without the permission of the family. The charity initially used her image (as her image was shared online), only as requests were made by the family to remove her photos online were they then pixillated.

Whilst we cannot speak ill of someones intention to raise funds on behalf of the deceased, this is surely to be done with tact and respect to the family and indeed the deceased themselves.

Furthermore, to do so the very same afternoon of the incident smacks of exploitation of the hurt and upset many felt at the horrendous news as it hit the airwaves.

Can Global One explain what permission they sought from the family to raise money on her behalf?

Stolen Data and GDPR breaches

Moving forward to Ramadan 2020, many hundreds of Muslims online shared screenshots of text messages they had received from ‘Dr Husna’ at Global One.

Following the outrage online at the theft of their data, Jamal Ahmed at Kazient Privacy Experts, began an initial investigation.

Despite him getting in touch with the charity, they continued to spam individuals with repeat text messages.

He now aims to set up a class action against the Charity and has a registration page for those who received similar messages to sign up in support.

From our conversations with those involved, it is alleged that customer data from Penny Appeal was stolen and used as a distribution list to spam requests for donations for Global One on their behalf.

Who had access to this data?

Can Penny Appeal clarify what they know of this matter and whether a report was made to the ICO in advance?

Who is investigating this matter on their behalf?

Misogyny by BMTV fundraisers raising money on behalf of a ‘female led’ charity

On the 28th April 2020, during a Ramadan fundraiser broadcast presented by two guest presenters (Jawad Sarwar and and Faisal/Faz Ali). The pair took a break during which they did not realise they were still on air on Facebook.

Their discussion about drinks soon turned to misogynistic comments made by Faz Ali.

As this was then picked up online, outrage ensued.

Following this, the pair issued the below non-apology.

The pair continued to fundraise for the charity on BMTV.

As protests online increased, BMTV then put out this statement, attempting to distance themselves from the presenters and downplay the incident.

We post the screenshot below to protect against the deletion of the tweet.

It is interesting to note that the presenters were not ‘guests’ of BMTV. They were allegedly employed by them, as shown on Faisal Ali’s LinkedIn profile at the time.

Only as the BMTV apology was roundly derided as being thoroughly inadequate, and at a point of maximal outrage, did Joseph Hayat, Editor at the channel then read this prepared statement:

We note that only at this late stage did both presenters also issue personal apologies, with a statement also then issued from Global One denouncing the incident.

Muslim Charities — the truth

It was interesting to note BMTV broadcast a debate regarding the current state of the Muslim Charity sector.

None other than Adeem Younis and Dr Husna participated throughout, talking of the behaviour of charities and transparency.

A request by later made by Fadi Itani (CEO of Muslim Charities Forum) for an apology when, during this show, BMTV labelled the sector as a ‘mafia’.

BMTV now run SingleMuslim ads and SingleMuslim marriage shows

For a long period of time BMTV have run SingleMuslim TV ads. Over the last few months, they have also begun broadcasting a Single Muslim talk show.

Given the large sums of money Penny Appeal transfer to BMTV — how can this channel then be used to aggressively advertise a private company, owned by Adeem Younis, a Penny Appeal trustee?

We conclude this piece with many questions directed to the trustees and management of Penny Appeal, as well as all connected parties mentioned in this post.

For far too long, many ex employees of the organisations above have spoken off the record of abuses taking place at Penny Appeal and connected organisations. For far too long, no action has been taken, nor has any individual been removed from office.

Such behaviour, if proved true, are the precise reason the Muslim Charity sector has had a poor reputation in some circles, with a severe lack of accountability and transparency at the core.

We request the Charity Commission to begin a more full and detailed investigation into all of the above matters and seek urgent answers.

We request that the entire management at Penny Appeal seek due process or at the very least are removed from their posts should these allegations be proved true.

We request that any alleged criminal and fraudulent activity are investigated by the authorities.

We fully anticipate Penny Appeal will attempt to have this post taken offline as has been their tactic with most criticism received.

We request you, the readers to direct these questions to the charity and authorities and not let these alleged abuses be ignored any longer.

The alleged sexual abuse of children at the Penny Appeal orphanage in Gambia should be a wake up call to us all of an organisation with systemic failings.

We pray the truth is finally revealed, and those with inside information have the strength to stand up and speak up.

Enough is enough.

Update: 14/10/2020

Despite numerous emails to Penny Appeal, as usual they have opted to ignore our repeated requests for urgent answers to the questions presented above.

Update: 02/08/2021

2020 accounts added. Esplanade Media income to AY companies added to total.

Interestingly the latest set of accounts show that PA are currently under investigation with respect to governance issues.

What is more interesting is that the 2020 accounts now show an end to the relationship between various companies owned or controlled by Adeem Younis and Penny Appeal:

However we still see payments being made to these companies in 2021.

We ask Penny Appeal to elaborate on both the Charity Commission Compliance case as well as the final significant payments made to both Adeem Younis companies before ties were cut.

Update: 08/05/2022

Regarding the ongoing Compliance case regarding conflicts of interest:

Regarding the alleged sexual abuse taking place at Penny Appeal orphanages in The Gambia:

Despite their promises, these findings have not been shared publicly.

As of May 2022, a response to this study has and continues to be ignored by Penny Appeal. They refuse to answer basic questions such as informing the public the total payments made to companies connected to the trustees/founders/senior management.

Update 04/2023

We note this paragraph in the latest accounts filed by PA. Clearly there are still issues with regards to conflicts of interest and the Charity Commission are still looking into this.

We also note — despite 2019 accounts stating that PA would no longer have a relationship with Esplanade Vale Media Ltd and MB Trading Ltd, payments are still being made to these entities.

SingleMuslim

Launched in 2000 by Adeem Younis, SingleMuslim is a Muslim matrimonial website.

At the time it was certainly novel for the Muslim community here in the UK to find a partner online.

The company was incorporated in 2007 despite the service actually launching 2000.

The website, has a skewed pricing structure. Women may use the service completely free. Men however, must purchase a recurring subscription in order to read or reply to any incoming messages.

Early Companies House records showed it had a turnover of approximately £200,000 in 2008, £569,000 in 2009 and £623,000 in 2010. Later financial returns did not opt to include turnover figures.

It’s most recent filings noted a total of 4 employees, and accounts were filed as a Micro Company.

Micro-entities are very small companies. A company will be a micro-entity if it has any 2 of the following:

  • a turnover of £632,000 or less
  • £316,000 or less on its balance sheet
  • 10 employees or less

It is our assumption that SingleMuslim meets the last two criteria and that it has a turnover of many millions of pounds.

Let us now examine many of the practices allegedly employed by this platform.

Bots and fake female accounts?

Given the skewed gender based pricing nature of the platform, a common tactic employed by unscrupulous ‘dating companies’ is for the firm to create fake bot accounts, who’s sole aim is to feign interest in male accounts, with a view to then prompting men to purchase a subscription in order to read and respond to the messages.

Usually the conversation then goes nowhere as the female account was always a ruse.

A BBC Investigation in 2013 in to Cupid Media uncovered some very similar behaviours:

“…members who said they had lots of messages when they signed up to the sites as free users. But when they paid up, interest rapidly tailed off.”

A study done by Gizmodo, following the hack of Ashley Madison (an extra marital affair site) also yielded some similar behaviours. The platform at the time had over 30M male accounts and 5M female profiles:

“…the more I examined those 5.5 million female profiles, the more obvious it became that none of them had ever talked to men on the site, or even used the site at all after creating a profile. Actually, scratch that. As I’ll explain below, there’s a good chance that about 12,000 of the profiles out of millions belonged to actual, real women who were active users of Ashley Madison.”

Furthermore:

It’s also a matter of public record that some percentage of the profiles are less than real. A few years ago, a former employee of Ashley Madison sued the company in Canada over her terrible work conditions. She claimed that she’d gotten repetitive stress injuries in her hands after the company hired her to create 1,000 fake profiles of women in three months, written in Portuguese, to attract a Brazilian audience. The case was settled out of court, and Ashley Madison claimed that the woman never made any fake profiles.

Why is any of this relevant?

From studying the vast number of reviews left on platforms such as Trustpilot, PissedConsumer, Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, a recurring theme certainly appears evident:

We urge you to take the time to read the hundreds of reviews made across many years which point to the same types of potentially fraudulent activities taking place on the platform.

Let us be clear — should this be taking place, this is a criminal and fraudulent act.

Unethical and misleading subscription practices

SingleMuslim have possibly one of the most misleading and unethical charging mechanisms of any online platform we have seen. It is a setup that lacks any Islamic sense of honesty to the consumer and merely seeks to take advantage (and hard cash) from its users.

Their terms and conditions state:

You acknowledge and agree that you are obliged to give us 28 days’ notice before canceling this payment method and that during the 28 day cancellation period, you may be required to make a further monthly payment if the payment due date falls during this cancellation period. You also acknowledge and agree that such notice will only be validly given by the completion and transmission by you to us of our on-line payment cancellation form.

Yes — you read that correctly — if you so happened to purchase a monthly subscription, unless you cancelled it within 2 days you would be forced to pay for 2 months.

It is not immediately made obvious that your payment will recur, and cancellation is by no means easy either and is intentionally convoluted and made difficult on their site.

This tactic has been exploited further with the introduction of a weekly subscription.

This exploitative mechanism has actually been better explained by various reviews we sourced:

It is indeed a poor reflection of the greed shown by a business which is happy to exploit its users, many of which are genuinely in real need of matrimonial services.

GDPR

Many individuals have got in touch with us informing us that they have received spam text messages with fake names, originating from SingleMuslim, yet never shared their phone number with them.

Requests to the company to disclose the source of this data were ignored as were requests to delete it.

We will return to discuss potential GDPR breaches at various organisations linked to and including SingleMuslim later in this piece.

Singles Events — exploiting women?

SingleMuslim have previously run a number of singles “speed dating” events. Their website speaks of offering:

  • 50:50 male to female ratio
  • Optional Mahram / Chaperone tickets available
  • Face-to-face introductions
  • 3-course buffet lunch and drinks

We spoke with a number of attendees, who spoke of the high ticket prices (up to £80) and many frustrated females who felt they were being exploited, speaking of of how uneven the male to female ratio was in reality (20:80 in one case), and how requests for refunds were ignored.

Misleading consumers — misuse of other trademarks

We have spoken to a number of other Muslim matrimonial platforms in this space, who have spoken of misuse and abuse of their company names and trademarks by SingleMuslim. Many mentioned that in some cases the offending use was eventually removed however no acknowledgement or reply was ever received despite repeated communication attempts.

Screenshots provided below as we anticipate these will be deleted shortly to remove any evidence.

Muslimmatch are a Muslim Dating app owned by Matrimony.com — an Indian matchmaking company.

Muslima.com are a white label dating website owned by Cupid Media Pty Ltd.

SingleMuslim are clearly happy to abuse trademarks owned by other companies in order confuse and mislead consumers with a view to directing traffic to their services.

SingleMuslimVIP

SingleMuslimVIP is a personalised matchmaking service launched in 2019 by SingleMuslim. It boasts:

“bespoke VIP packages are brought to you from world leading matchmaking experts and are designed to unlock your potential and success in looking for your perfect companion.”

Pricing ranges from £3000 to £100,000. Yes those prices are correct.

Looking at these “experts”, a number of odd observations became apparent. Many of the team shown on their website included old friends of Adeem Younis, as well as some of their partners, paraded as experts.

Furthermore we understand that at least one individual was listed as being part of the VIP team without their knowledge, and that many of these team members have now been removed .

Stealing data and breaching signed NDA agreements

SingleMuslimVIP was allegedly founded on the basis and use of stolen data, shared by a competitor under the guise of a potential acquisition and/or partnership.

BeyondChai, a US based personalised Muslim Matrimonial service began discussions with Adeem and SingleMuslim in December 2019. As part of these discussions, private data and other business and trade secrets were shared under a signed NDA.

Adeem/SingleMuslim then allegedly proceeded to use this data ahead of launching its own personalised matrimonial service. They then proceeded to ignore all communication from BeyondChai.

BeyondChai were then forced to seek legal representation and on the 24th February 2020, issued a Cease And Desist to Adeem/SingleMuslim. This has been duly ignored.

This was then published on their social accounts:

Supporting evidence was also supplied by BeyondChai including copies of email exchanges, the signed NDA and other data points.

Why is any of this important you may ask? We feel it paints a picture of the kind of ethics and acceptable business practices employed by Adeem Younis.

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