The trust was at one point the 77th biggest charity by income in England and Wales. In the two years to March 2011, it received £176m of funds and made a claim for £46m of Gift Aid, but spent just £55,000 on good causes, and was left with assets of only £107,000.
The rest of its funds were used to buy bonds that were sold to donors at a tiny fraction of the price the charity paid for them. It is understood this system was used to ensure donors were not out of pocket.
Donors who were paying the top rate of income tax – 40 per cent in 2009/10 and 50 per cent in 2010/11 – could have claimed about £54m more in higher-rate income tax relief during those two years, although HM Revenue & Customs might have refused to make repayments on those claims.
The charity’s Gift Aid claim has still not been paid, the most recent return shows. It is not known whether donors successfully claimed any tax relief.
In its 2011 accounts, the charity committed to spending a further £80,000 on charitable donations. It is not certain if this has now been done.
The National Audit Office has launched an inquiry into the Charity Commission’s investigation practices because of its failure to close down the trust.