Kids Company founder accused of making 'broken promises'

Camila Batmanghelidjh was giving evidence at the High Court as part of the Official Receiver's case against her and a group of former Kids Company trustees

Camila Batmanghelidjh
Camila Batmanghelidjh

The founder and former chief executive of the defunct charity Kids Company was accused of making “broken promises” at the High Court yesterday.

In an often tetchy first day’s evidence, Camila Batmanghelidjh, appearing via video link, was also accused by Lesley Anderson, acting on behalf of the Official Receiver, of being “very defensive”. 

The OR is seeking to secure disqualification from senior positions for periods of up to six years against Batmanghelidjh and seven other trustees of the charity.

Anderson highlighted loans amounting to several hundred thousand pounds made by Kids Company donors, which were made on the premise they would be paid back in a specific time frame.

She said that an inability to keep to a number of short-term loan agreements amounted to “broken promises”.

An email sent on Batmanghelidjh's behalf that claimed that a debt owed to one donor “was seared into her brain and heart”, the court was told. 

“But not enough to pay on time,” said Anderson.

Another donor described feeling uncomfortable at Batmanghelidjh’s direct approach when asking for money, Anderson said. 

Batmanghelidjh had sent an email asking for a loan of £50,000 headed “plea from the ghetto”. 

Batmanghelidjh defended the decision to obtain short-term loans as a way of managing the charity’s cash flow problems, and said she had good relationships with donors, and always had respect for them.

“It was not my intention to break promises,” said Batmanghelidjh. She maintained that she did not make loan agreements on her own.

Part of the OR’s case is that Kids Company became reliant on short-term loans.

Batmanghelidjh also disputed the accuracy of the OR’s list of creditors - people who were owed money after the charity went bust in 2015. She said there were about 100 payments that should not be on the receiver’s list.

Anderson described this as “convenient” and said this point had not been challenged by her lawyer.

In another exchange, Anderson told Batmanghelidjh, “you’re very defensive”, as the OR tried to establish who was responsible for taking minutes at committee and trustee board meetings.

“I would say accurate,” said Batmanghelidjh.

She denied she had editorial control of any minutes taken and described the assertion by the OR as “fantasy”.

Batmanghelidjh was accused of lying by the OR with regards to the charity being unable to meet its payroll requirements at the end of November 2014.

Batmanghelidjh told the court the delay was because of a technical problem at the bank, which led to payroll being a day late. 

“It was a lie,” said Anderson. 

“No it wasn’t,” replied Batmanghelidjh.

The OR also questioned how much preparation Batmanghelidjh had done for the case when she claimed she had not seen a number of financial documents in advance of the trial.

Batmanghelidjh said she had read the witness statements.

The 10-week trial continues.

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