A fourth Sydney Muslim school has had its funding frozen by the NSW government, amid allegations in a court case of financial mismanagement and a claim by the school’s chairman that he was threatened with a gun and subjected to a death threat by a relative of the principal.
Rissalah College in Lakemba, in Sydney’s southwest, is the latest Muslim school to be embroiled in controversy, with the school’s chairman and treasurer alleging, in affidavits tendered and read in the NSW Supreme Court, misappropriation of funds of more than $500,000 by the principal Ali Roude.
The school’s chairman, Bassam Kamaledine, and its treasurer, Riedwehn Toefy, have taken the Supreme Court action to have Mr Roude removed from his roles as principal, a director of the school and beneficiary of a trust that receives the school’s funds.
Rissalah College, a primary school of about 500 students, received $3.68 million in state and federal funding in 2011, accounting for 75 per cent of its overall revenue.
In court documents tendered in court and obtained by The Australian, Mr Kamaledine claims he was the subject of a death threat and shown a cocked rifle by a relative of Mr Roude.
Mr Roude, who is also the vice-chairman of the Islamic Council of NSW, has denied any wrongdoing. The school board suspended him as principal several weeks ago.
In the affidavit, Mr Kamaledine claims Mr Roude’s relative met him at a house to discuss complaints he had made about alleged financial mismanagement by Mr Roude at the school.
Mr Kamaledine claims the man made a death threat against him, warning him that he had “more guns than the army” and to stop raising concerns about corruption at the school.
In Mr Kamaledine’s affidavit, he says Mr Roude’s relative told him: “I want you to back off . . . Ali . . . stop stressing them out, I don’t want you to get involved in what they do at the school and you leave them alone to do whatever they want. It’s their school . . . You humiliated him in from (sic) all the other board member. I warning you to stay away from the school.
“This is my thing. And this is what I do. I have 200 to 250 guys behind me and we have more guns than the army. You should have been gone 2 1/2 weeks ago but I stepped in and if you don’t do as I’m telling you I’m gonna take matters into my own hands. You will go straight to the farm house, I swear on my father’s grave.”
Mr Kamaledine said the man then told him that if he told anyone about their conversation, including the police, “you’ll be gone”.
He then states that he asked the man for a glass of water, at which point the man picked up a rifle from behind the front door, cocked it and placed it in a storage room.
“Before he went in his kitchen, he went behind his front door, which was adjacent to the lounge I was sitting on, and picked up a rifle and walked toward his storage room door,” Mr Kamaledine’s affidavit says.
“The rifle was pointing down along his side and I noticed he clicked the rifle and took it into the storage room. Nothing was said by either of us about the rifle. (He) then gave me a glass of water and we went upstairs to his mother’s place.”
Mr Kamaledine claims he was living in fear of being killed after the event, and suffers nightmares about the incident.
The Australian understands a police complaint has also been made in relation to the threat.
The details of the alleged fraud are being examined by government auditors, with investigators visiting the school last week.
Rissalah has now had its state government funding frozen by the NSW Education Department, pending an investigation into the school.
The affidavit claims at least $560,451 worth of funds have been misappropriated from the school, with Mr Kamaledine asking the school to make a claim of recovery for the amount against Mr Roude and others.
Mr Kamaledine’s lawyer, Rolf Howard, said his client had “no personal benefit” in bringing the case but “as chairman of directors identified this issue and feels a community desire to have them investigated and pursued”.
The Australian has also obtained an affidavit by Mr Toefy, which alleges payments made from the school coffers worth $75,900 to “consulting services” were paid to a company called “Roude Consulting” and Mr Roude’s wife. Mr Toefy also alleges that last December Mr Roude offered to pay him $2000 after Mr Toefy raised questions about the financial management of the school.
“I want to give you $2000. It can be included in your wife’s bonus,” Mr Roude allegedly said.
When Mr Toefy refused the offer, he claims Mr Roude said that “the school has a surplus of funds which has to be dispersed”.
Mr Roude’s lawyers issued a short statement yesterday saying their client had done nothing wrong.
“The claims in the affidavits are generally denied in the context as put forward by Mr Kamaledine,” Mr Roude’s lawyers said. “Certain claims are not denied to have taken place, but any wrongdoing is denied.”
Mr Roude is a former chairman of the NSW Islamic Council and in 1988 was a recipient of the Order of Australia for his services to the Muslim community.
In 1996 he was appointed by the state government to the Police Ethnic Advisory Committee and the Olympic Multicultural Advisory Committee.
The office of NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said that as the matter was before the court, it would be inappropriate to comment.
Rissalah College is the fourth Muslim school in Sydney to have its state funding frozen in recent times. Australia’s largest Muslim school, Malek Fahd in Greenacre in Sydney’s southwest, is under police and ASIC investigation after the NSW government ordered it to pay back $9 million in fees paid to its managing body, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, that it concluded were for profit.
State funding for Al-Noori, the second-largest Muslim school in Sydney, had been frozen and was subject to a special audit conducted by the Board of Education after its former auditors raised concerns about property transactions.
The Australian Islamic College in Mount Druitt had its funding frozen amid concerns about financial practices, but it has been restored after an investigation by the department and action by the Association of Independent Schools.Source: The Ausrtralian – Muslim school Rissalah College’s funding frozen
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