A charity set up to educate people about a Nigerian ethnic group has been deregistered and reported to police after the Charity Commission found it had taken fraudulent credit card payments and siphoned off more than £14,000 in donations to trustees.
The commission published a report today about its statutory inquiry into Yoruba Language and Cultural Heritage. It says the commission could find no evidence that the charity, which registered in 2012 with the object of educating the public about the language, heritage and culture of the Yoruba Nigerian ethnic group, had carried out any charitable activity.
Problems came to light when an online donation platform that had worked with the charity approached the commission in 2013 to report that five separate donations amounting to £5,500 it had processed for the charity had been made without the cardholders’ knowledge.
The commission opened a regulatory compliance case, after which another donation-processing company reported that some of the £14,000 of donations it had passed on to the charity had been fraudulent.
Further investigation revealed that two of the charity’s six trustees had received 12 cheques from the charity, totalling £14,070 between them, and that the bank statement the charity had given the commission as proof of income when it registered was forged.
A statutory inquiry was opened and the commission attempted to contact the charity’s trustees. It received responses from only two of them, both of whom denied any knowledge of the charity or ever acting as a trustee, the report says.
These two might have been victims of identity theft, the commission’s report concludes.
The commission was unable to track down the two trustees who received payouts, who were the only two signatories on the charity’s bank account.
The report says: "The commission found no evidence that the charity was operating for the public benefit or of any associated charitable expenditure or activity.
"The commission concluded that it was possible that donations were fraudulently obtained and diverted to the bank accounts of two individuals for private gain and that the charity had been set up and/or used purely for this purpose."
The charity, which also failed to submit its financial information to the commission, was removed from the register of charities.
Carl Mehta, head of investigations and enforcement at the commission, said: "The commission found in this case that the individuals who registered it had provided false information to the commission.
"In addition, there was no evidence of charitable activity, and there was evidence the donations were fraudulently obtained and diverted to the bank accounts for private gain and that the charity had been set up and used purely for this purpose."
He said the case had been reported to police and Action Fraud, the fraud and internet crime reporting centre.