Charity Commission welcomes conviction of Eyob Sellassie for attempted fraud

Founder of African Aids Action was found guilty of two counts of fraud by false representation for inventing bogus donations in order to claim Gift Aid

Charity Commission
Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has welcomed the conviction of Eyob Sellassie, the founder of the now defunct charity African Aids Action, for an attempted £100,000 Gift Aid fraud.

Sellassie was this week found guilty at the Old Bailey of two counts of fraud by false representation for inventing more than £415,000 of bogus donations to the charity in order to claim Gift Aid payments totalling £104,008.25.

A statement from the commission, which investigated the charity between 2008 and 2010, said that any type of fraud involving charities was unacceptable.

"Following our investigation into African Aids Action, our continued regulatory action included scrutiny and monitoring of the charity and its trustees and giving assistance to HM Revenue & Customs with its criminal investigation," it said.

The statement said that as a result of the court case Sellassie would automatically be disqualified from being a charity trustee.

African Aids Action was at the centre of a dispute between the commission and one of its former case workers, David Orbison, over the regulator’s actions towards the charity.

Orbison, who was asked by the commission to investigate the charity, made a complaint under the Public Interest Disclosure Act that the regulator was breaching its statutory duty by failing to take sufficiently robust action against it.

He subsequently resigned from the commission and brought a case against it at the employment tribunal for claims including constructive dismissal and discrimination.

In 2012, the regulator won three out of the four claims brought by Orbison in 2012. It won the fourth earlier this year after an appeal.

Orbison said yesterday that the verdict on the Sellassie case vindicated his concerns about the charity.

But a commission spokeswoman said today that the Sellassie conviction had no bearing on Orbison’s employment tribunal claim, and that the tribunal had found that his whistleblowing on the case was not connected to his dismissal.

"The employment tribunal case between the commission and Mr Orbison was about the claimant’s employment relationship with the commission," she said. "In the employment tribunal, Mr Orbison claimed that he was subjected to detriment and harassment because he made a public interest disclosure in respect of African Aids Action.

"The employment tribunal and the employment appeal tribunal found against Mr Orbison on these points."

The judgment from the employment appeal tribunal earlier this year remitted to a fresh tribunal Orbison’s claim that the regulator had failed to make reasonable adjustments for him to be able to return to work.

Orbison has said this has been granted a stay while he considers whether he can take his case to the Court of Appeal.

It is understood that the commission and Orbison are now in correspondence about how to bring the case to a close. The commission spokeswoman said the regulator had "not made a substantive offer to Orbison to settle on the outstanding issue of reasonable adjustments".

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