A company that operated a sham charity collection business has been ordered to go into liquidation by the High Court on public interest grounds, following an investigation by the Insolvency Service and the Trading Standards Institute.
The Drops of Help, which was based in Beckton, east London, claimed to be a not-for-profit organisation collecting for "poor families, orphans and asylums" and fully licensed to carry out its operations, but the investigation found none of the money was given to charity.
The court heard on Wednesday that the company did not make a single charitable donation but instead clothes and other items it collected were shipped abroad and sold at a profit. The Drops of Help forged the fumigation certificates necessary to allow it to export clothes to certain countries.
The company, which was incorporated in January 2010, delivered collection bags to households across Kent and east London and claimed in advertising on these bags and its website that it was collecting clothes and other items for the needy.
The adverts included a picture of a dishevelled child appearing to bite her nails with the statement, "The drops of help in your hands will support the poor families, orphans and asylums. Help them today, not tomorrow."
Its average turnover was about 15 tonnes of clothes per month, according to Asta Puziene, who ran the company with her husband Vaidotas Puzas.
The couple had earlier pleaded guilty in separate proceedings at Dartford Magistrates Court in October to 10 charges each relating to misleading actions and omissions under the consumer protection from unfair trading regulations.
At a subsequent sentencing hearing at Maidstone Crown Court in December, Puzas was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, given 250 hours of community service and ordered to pay £31,000 costs. Puziene was given 150 hours of community service. They were both banned for five years from acting as company directors.
"This company took shameful advantage of the public’s charity, thereby damaging genuine charities by taking items that may otherwise have been donated to them and by harming people’s faith in giving altogether," said Chris Mayhew, company investigations supervisor for the Insolvency Service.
"The Insolvency Service has strong enforcement powers and we will not hesitate to use them to remove dishonest companies and their directors from the business environment as these uncharitable directors found out."