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Drogba’s charity under probe over KSH242m scam

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A world-famous sports star's charity backed by Princess Beatrice and David Beckham is under investigation after the Mail found less than 1 per cent of the cash it raised in the UK has gone to good causes. Above, Princess Beatrice and Didier Drogba at the fundraising dinner for the Didier Drogba Foundation in 2012.
A world-famous sports star’s charity backed by Princess Beatrice and David Beckham is under investigation after the Mail found less than 1 per cent of the cash it raised in the UK has gone to good causes. Above, Princess Beatrice and Didier Drogba at the fundraising dinner for the Didier Drogba Foundation in 2012.

LONDON, April 14 – A world-famous sports star’s charity backed by Princess Beatrice and David Beckham is under investigation after it emerged that less than 1 per cent of the cash it raised in the UK has gone to good causes.

Stars, royals and businessmen have donated more than KSH 242 million (£1.7 million) to a foundation set up by former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba.

Supporters, including Bono, Frank Lampard and Christine Bleakley, were told the cash would build a hospital and help educate impoverished children in his West African homeland of Ivory Coast. But, disturbingly, accounts show that just Sh2 million (£14,115) went to good causes.

More than 30 times that amount, KSH62.7m was spent putting on lavish fundraising parties, where the Princess and other famous guests enjoyed champagne and were entertained by leading pop stars while the rest was left languishing in accounts.

The shocking evidence will horrify the charity’s backers including Pele, John Terry, Roger Federer and Donna Air, the girlfriend of the Duchess of Cambridge’s brother James.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is also known to have made a ‘large personal donation’.

There were also questions last night about millions of pounds in sponsorship earnings from Pepsi, Nike and Samsung, which Drogba claims have gone to the charity.

The money, none of which appears in the charity’s UK accounts is understood to have been paid into an account in the charity’s name in Ivory Coast.

And while the charity claims all of this sponsorship money has been used for charitable activities, it has not gone through the UK arm and none of these activities have ever been open to scrutiny by the UK Charity Commission.

In addition, the Didier Drogba Foundation has declined to reveal whether the star paid UK income tax on these sponsorship payments, made over six years while he was with Chelsea and living in a KSH999.4 million (£7 million) mansion in Surrey.

On Wednesday night, the Charity Commission launched an urgent probe after being handed a dossier of evidence by the Mail.

The regulator’s chief operating officer, David Holdsworth, said it has “serious concerns” and would urgently investigate whether the charity had “provided misleading information to donors and the public”.

Rob Wilson, Minister for Civil Society, also said the allegations were ‘extremely worrying’. Specialist forensic accountants who analysed the documents on behalf of the Mail said it was ‘crystal clear’ that ‘virtually nothing’ raised in the UK by the foundation has been spent on charitable activities.

The revelations will also be a serious embarrassment to the UN, which praises the foundation on its website and made Drogba, who enjoys iconic status across Africa as one of its Goodwill Ambassadors in 2007. The UN has also vowed to investigate the claims.

Drogba, 38, who played more than 100 times for his country and captained them at two World Cups, is the most successful African star ever to play in the UK.

He has won numerous awards and reportedly earned more than KSH 28.5 million (£200,000) per week at the peak of his career.

Drogba launched his UK charitable foundation in 2009 when playing for Chelsea. He is spending the twilight days of his career with a lucrative contract in Canada.

The UK charity which is registered to the office of a PR company, has held four fundraising balls in top central London hotels for its multi-millionaire donors.

Supporters were told the Didier Drogba Foundation had been ‘providing financial support across health and education in Africa for nearly a decade’.

The charity, they were told, was building a hospital that would save 10,000 lives per year in Ivory Coast and give jobs to thousands of desperate locals.

But accounts filed to the Charity Commission revealed only KSH2 million (£14,115) of the money raised in the UK over five years has been spent on good causes, with the majority of donations either going on swish events for celebrity supporters, or left untouched in bank accounts.

Hundreds of thousands have been raised through the balls, while more than KSH 142.8million (£1 million) has also been given in voluntary donations in the UK.

Yet the charity has continued to appeal for funds while sitting on reserves of more than £1 million.

After questions from the Mail, the Didier Drogba Foundation revealed that it has a separate organisation set up in the Ivory Coast with the same name which has been used to fund a number of charitable projects in Africa since 2007.

This included paying for medical treatment in Switzerland for an Ivorian child with leukemia, building the ‘clinic’ in the Ivory Coast, although this is yet to open, and funding a mobile health screening truck.

Other charities that work abroad have similar arrangements. But the UK Charity Commission was surprised it had never been told about this separate institution and details of how its money is spent in the Ivory Coast are not open to public scrutiny.

When asked to provide details of the accounts, the Foundation declined.

Mr Holdsworth said: ‘The Charity Commission has serious regulatory concerns about a number of compliance issues raised and have contacted the charity to seek an urgent response.

“In particular, the Commission has concerns about the administration and the oversight provided by trustees, all of whom appear to live abroad, as well as allegations that the charity has provided misleading information to donors and the public.

“Further, the charity has raised and accumulated significant sums of money that have not yet been spent.”

Rob Wilson said: “These allegations against the Didier Drogba Foundation are extremely worrying. I welcome the Charity Commission’s urgent investigation.”

A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) spokeswoman said: “UNDP is aware of recent allegations against the Didier Drogba Foundation and is actively seeking clarification. UNDP has never donated to nor received funds from Didier Drogba or the foundation. UNDP has never had any financial dealings of any kind with the Didier Drogba Foundation.”

John Frenkel, principal of top accountancy firm Frenkels Forensics, analysed the charity’s UK accounts for the Daily Mail.

 

He said: “Virtually nothing has been given to charity so far. What is £14,000 over six years? When you put the figures alongside the PR that is going out, it just doesn’t stack up at all.”

A spokesman for the Didier Drogba Foundation stated there is “no truth whatsoever in these allegations”.

The Didier Drogba Foundation has become a fashionable cause among Britain’s celebrity luvvies, sports stars and party-loving royals not least because of the fundraising balls they have held at two of London’s top hotels.

Major corporations such as Barclays and Pepsi have been equally eager to associate their global brands with the cause, given Drogba’s significant cachet in Africa a burgeoning market for their businesses.

By the time Princess Beatrice attended the third Foundation ball in March 2012 a coup for any charity, the foundation had been running in the UK for just over two years.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds had been raised by a growing number of high-profile donors, who were told their money was going to desperate children in the Ivory Coast.

In fact, not a penny they gave had been spent in Africa. And, by contrast, £439,321 of their money was essentially recycled, spent on the star-studded London ‘fundraising’ parties they attended.

The Foundation has become a fashionable cause among Britain’s best known celebrity luvvies, multi-millionaire sports stars and party-loving royals. Above, Drogba and singer Una Healy at the December 2010 Foundation ball
The Foundation has become a fashionable cause among Britain’s best known celebrity luvvies, multi-millionaire sports stars and party-loving royals. Above, Drogba and singer Una Healy at the December 2010 Foundation ball

Just how did so many high-profile people give so much money to a cause that did so little with their generous donations?

The Didier Drogba Foundation was originally started as a charity in the Ivory Coast by the footballer in 2007. The UK arm was launched in November 2009 with its first ball at The Dorchester hotel in London.

Guests — including Premier League footballers and bad boy England rugby star Danny Cipriani — were treated to a champagne reception and gourmet dinner, while being told about the foundation’s work in Africa and asked to donate.

There was an exclusive performance by boy band JLS — among the biggest pop stars in England at the time. A Pepsi director was photographed with American singer Akon, while Drogba’s Chelsea team-mates showed off their moves on the dance floor. The ball made the charity a profit of £210,373, according to accounts — but Drogba’s publicists told the media that £500,000 had been raised.

In 2010, the party moved to the Grosvenor House hotel — and the guest list became more glamorous. Among them was TV host Christine Bleakley — then dating Chelsea star Frank Lampard — who wore a £1,750 Victoria Beckham dress.

Magician Dynamo wowed the crowd with tricks as they ate a selection of petit fours, with Turkish delight and dainty cubes of chocolate. Later, Nicole Scherzinger and The Saturdays performed on stage.

U2 singer Bono — pop’s self-styled king of Third World causes — recorded a video message shown to the stars on huge screens. Drogba also spoke and pleaded with the crowd — telling them their support for the charity was desperately needed.

‘I hope that you will help me because this is a great cause and I really need your support because I won’t give up,’ he said. ‘It’s a big fight . . . I’m asking you — I’m begging you — to bid in the auction.’

Bono donated a signed Gretsch guitar, which was reportedly bought by a Chelsea footballer for £14,000.

Guests also bid for football kits signed by David Beckham and Pele, gifts from tennis superstars Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, luxury holidays and a one-off watch from top Swiss brand Hublot, which can sell for more than £100,000.

Pepsi pledged a dollar (70p) for every retweet of @FondationDrogba for 24 hours, with the message shared on Twitter by celebrities.

To mark the apparent success of the event, a press release was sent out the following day by the foundation’s PR firm. ‘Attended by many names from the worlds of sport and music, the evening raised £300,000 towards the hospital Didier is building in Abidjan,’ it stated.

And two days after that, Drogba tweeted: ‘Thank you so much everyone for your RTs (sic) [for sharing the messages]. Pepsi has donated $100,000 (£70,600) to help us build the hospital in Abidjan!!’

But UK accounts covering the dinner filed to the Charity Commission almost two years later told an entirely different story. They declared that the ball had raised just £41,550 in donations.

Worse still, the evening cost a huge £113,256 to put on, including £34,839 on ‘entertainment’ and £28,952 on the venue. This means that, overall, the ‘fundraising’ party actually lost the charity £71,706.

Just over a year later, in March 2012, the Didier Drogba Foundation held its third ball back at The Dorchester. By then, it had secured the support of Princess Beatrice, Miss Air and many other big names in showbusiness and fashion.

Waiters dressed in black lined the entrance to the ballroom with trays of champagne. At The Dorchester, the cheapest they serve is a Laurent-Perrier at £68 per bottle.

This time, Miss Bleakley — who became Mrs Lampard last year — opted for a black peplum dress and a quilted Chanel handbag.

Grammy-winning singer Estelle performed in front of a screen promoting auction items, including David Beckham’s boots.

“The auction raised over £250,000, with all the money from the night going directly to the Didier Drogba Foundation,” the press release announced. ‘The three charity balls the Foundation have held have so far raised over £1 million.”

So what happened to the money the charity raised? What we now know is the Didier Drogba Foundation has been functioning as two entirely separate charities — one in the UK and one in Ivory Coast.

The foundation’s donors were told that gifts for children, the construction of an empty clinic and a mobile screening truck have all been paid for by the foundation which they were supporting.

In fact, this work was covered in Africa by Drogba’s own donations, which are not open to scrutiny by the UK Charity Commission.

And what about the money raised in the UK? Despite the publicists’ claims that £1 million was raised by the first three balls, accounts show the celebrity guests gave a total of £678,956. Meanwhile, almost half a million pounds was spent putting on the parties. And with the charity’s running expenses over these years amounting to £134,945, very little was left over.

Separately, just over £1 million has been given to the charity in the UK in voluntary donations since 2009, which sits in accounts.

John Frenkel, principal of top accountancy firm Frenkels Forensics, has analysed the Didier Drogba Foundation accounts.

“I am particularly concerned at the second year’s ball,’ he said ‘Surely this is something very specific the Charity Commission would have to ask very serious questions about.”

The Foundation continues to raise money from its superstar supporters. It had another Dorchester ball last April. Tickets cost £495, or you could buy a table for 12 for £5,500. U.S. pop star Christina Milian performed. An appeal video was produced by Barclays.

The charity has claimed the ball raised £400,000 — but the accounts for last year are not yet due, so the figure cannot be verified.

The Didier Drogba Foundation claims to have spent millions on good causes. This has not been done through the UK charity’s account so must have been done through the Ivorian foundation, the accounts for which the Foundation declined to provide to us.

When we approached the Foundation they denied any wrongdoing but would not publicly comment on what the UK charity intended to do with the money it has raised since 2009, nor on allegations that it had misled donors about how their money would be spent.

A spokesman for Barclays said: ‘In 2015 we did some one-off filming with Didier to highlight the work he was doing outside football. We agreed a fee for his time that would go to his Foundation. We have not had, nor plan, any other work with Didier.’

A spokeswoman for Pepsico said: ‘Pepsi had an endorsement deal with Didier Drogba which began in 2009 and ended in 2012. It included payments made in good faith to his Foundation.’

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on behalf of any of the supporters of the Didier Drogba Foundation. A spokeswoman for Princess Beatrice and Dave Clark declined to comment.

Mr and Mrs Beckham, Mr and Mrs Lampard, Bono, Miss Air, Mr Cipriani, JLS, Dynamo, The Saturdays, Akon, Miss Milian, Mr Federer, Mr Nadal and Mr Terry declined to comment. A spokesman for Roman Abramovich said: “Mr Abramovich has always welcomed, and will continue to support, charitable initiatives by Didier Drogba and other Chelsea FC players past and present.”

Supporters, including Bono, Frank Lampard and Christine Bleakley, were told the cash would build a hospital and help educate impoverished children in his West African homeland of Ivory Coast. But, disturbingly, UK accounts show that just £14,115 went to good causes. Above, the hospital, which is currently empty.
Supporters, including Bono, Frank Lampard and Christine Bleakley, were told the cash would build a hospital and help educate impoverished children in his West African homeland of Ivory Coast. But, disturbingly, UK accounts show that just £14,115 went to good causes. Above, the hospital, which is currently empty.

The Ivory Coast hospital with no beds or patients: No sign of promised X-ray room, modern laboratory or pharmacy despite six years of generous donations

It was billed as a multi-million-pound hospital that would save 10,000 lives in Africa every year and give jobs and income to thousands.

But this empty shell of a building on a busy road — with not a single bed or piece of medical equipment — is all that has been built after six years of generous donations to the Didier Drogba Foundation.

The ‘hospital’ in Abidjan — the biggest city in Ivory Coast — was not open and had no equipment inside when visited by the Mail this week. There was no sign of the promised X-ray room, ultra-modern laboratory, pharmacy or isolation rooms.

When the hospital is fully equipped and does eventually open — possibly in the coming months — it will have just ten beds. And despite promises it would offer maternity care, local officials for the charity now admit it will be ‘too complicated’ for women to give birth there or be treated overnight.

Instead, they say, the idea is for the building to function like a day clinic. The charity’s supporters were told more than £1 million from the donations they made had gone towards buying the land and building the hospital.

In fact, the Mail found the land was donated to the Didier Drogba Foundation for free. And the charity’s latest accounts show just £14,115 has been spent on the project from UK donations. The Foundation has said it is funding its work through its Ivorian accounts rather than using the UK charity’s money.

We found it empty, with dusty floors suggesting no one had been inside for a while. There was no furniture or equipment, apart from one desk.

A security guard said the clinic would include a meeting room, an office for the director and a few medical rooms.

“This big room you see here is the main hospital room,’ he added. ‘It’s for ten people. It will hold ten beds, no more.”

The Mail’s findings are in stark contrast to claims made by Drogba and his PR team. Drogba appeared in a Pepsi advert in February 2010 to discuss the hospital project.

He said: “I made a promise to myself that if I was able to live my dream as a footballer, that I would build my dream in Africa in my home town of Abidjan to build a hospital.

“One hospital in Africa will save 10,000 lives a year, give jobs and income to thousands, will give hope to millions and this is just the beginning.”

Then, in a reference to Pepsi’s slogan ‘Refresh your World’, he added: ‘One hospital will refresh my world. Pepsi is helping me make it happen. Today I’ll purchase the land, tomorrow I will build my dream.’

The project was held up by the civil war in 2011 in Ivory Coast — but by 2012, Drogba said it was back on track.

According to the Foundation website: ‘The opening of the hospital is expected around June-July 2015.’ It also claims there will be an X-ray room, a laboratory, pharmacy, hospitalisation and isolation rooms and it will accommodate more than 50,000 patients a year.

But Guy Tanoh, the executive secretary of the Didier Drogba Foundation, admitted in Abidjan earlier this year: ‘We don’t have any professionals. It is not a hospital for hospitalisation. We will receive people, we will examine them, we will provide them with medication, but we do not want to hospitalise because, you see, it’s too complicated.’

The Didier Drogba Foundation page on his PR company’s website stated that proceeds from the charity’s balls in London ‘have gone towards the land, initial costs of building and the construction of the clinics’. But when asked if the Didier Drogba Foundation had paid for the land, Paulin Claude Danho, the mayor of the Attecoube area of Abidjan, said: ‘No, not at all. The land was given free by the town council.’

After questions from the Mail, the PR company’s online profile was edited last week to take out the claim that the Foundation bought the land.

The Foundation also claims to have funded a mobile clinic in Ivory Coast. The Mail has since established that this is a medical truck, which has been built by a charity called The Heart Fund, in collaboration with the Didier Drogba Foundation.

The Heart Fund said the Foundation financed the project with 215,000 euros (£170,000), while other patrons have also supported the project.

Drogba has explained that his original plan for a large hospital has changed and now the charity plans a main clinic in Abidjan and mobile treatment units around the country, but did not respond with a comment for publication when asked about the claims to have bought the land.

-By Daily Mail-

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