Afghan Heroes charity to close after it raked in £555,000 in donations but spent just £15,000 helping people
Denise Harris founded charity after son Lee died in war-torn nation in 2009
Charity watchdogs launched probe in December
Majority of money went on fundraising, events and wages for staff
UPDATED: 08:38 GMT, 8 April 2014
A soldier’s charity is to close down after it raked in £555,000 in donations - but spent just £15,000 on actually helping people.
Afghan Heroes was founded by Denise Harris in memory of her son Lee who was killed by an improvised explosive device in Nad-e-Al while serving in Afghanistan in July 2009.
The Charity Commission froze the organisation’s bank accounts and launched an inquiry in December into the charity which helps hard-up and injured former soldiers.
But an interim manager has now declared the charity 'no longer a viable concern' and would be wound up while the investigation continues.
Afghan Heroes was founded by Denise Harris in memory of her son Lee, who was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. The charity is now closing and is being investigated by a charity watchdog
In a letter to former volunteers, interim manager Brian Johnson of HW Fisher & Company, said: “As a result I am, I am in the process of winding down the operations of the charity and no further action should take place in terms of events or other fundraising or support activities.”
During 2012, Afghan Heroes recieved £548,440, and while it spent £516,288, just £15,153 went on helping soldiers and their families.
Some £241,014 was spent on encouraging people to donate money, £233,910 on fundraising events, and a staggering £190,479 on wages for eight full-time and 16 part-time staff.
Fundraiser Tony Hall, volunteered for the charity four days a week and raised around £20,000 for the organisation over three years after he met founder Denise Harris.
Mr Hall, who left when he found out the charity was under investigation, said: 'I feel sorry for them in truth.
'She lost her son and that is sad. They didn’t expect this. They expected to get through it I think.
'I don’t hate them for that has happened. It is just that I wonder where the money has gone sometimes.
'It is all very well saying it is being would up and it is not ‘viable’ but where has all the fund raising that we worked so hard for gone
The commission met with the trustees last October to discuss misgivings but still had concerns about financial mismanagement so started an inquiry.
In a statement at the time, the watchdog said it is looking at the charity’s management and administration including 'the significant risk to, and potential loss of, the charity’s funds or other property'.
It is also investigating 'unmanaged conflicts of interest and unauthorised trustee benefits' and whether trustees have made any failings.
A report will be published following the conclusion of the inquiry.
In a statement in December, Denise Harris, 50, said the Somerset-based charity had tried to act properly and the last year had been busy.
'I feel sorry for them in truth.
'She lost her son and that is sad.
I don’t hate them for that has happened. It is just that I wonder where the money has gone sometimes'
She said: 'The charity was set up in 2009 when my son died while serving in Afghanistan and is run by a very small team, with most activities undertaken by myself and my husband.
'In the past year we have opened our first retreat for service personnel in Somerset, which has five bedrooms that are currently fully occupied.
'Full financial disclosure and access to our records has been made to the Charity Commission, which will report in due course.
'We have tried to act properly and within the regulations at all times.
'The inquiry will reveal whether anyone within the organisation has made any mistakes or mismanaged anything during an incredibly busy period for us.
'Our aim is for funds donated to benefit our troops.
'We are working with our advisers and the Charity Commission to resolve this issue and ensure that the best interests of recovering personnel are uppermost.'
Since it launched in 2009, Afghan Heroes has provided money to build memorials, organised holidays for families of wounded soldiers, and set up two retreats in Ashcott and Minehead, in Somerset.
A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said she could not comment on an ongoing inquiry.
While there is no suggestion that Afghan Heroes has been involved in any wrongdoing, police say there has been a huge increase in the number of fake charities fraudulently claiming to cater to injured servicemen.
Commander Stephen Head, lead on charity fraud for the Association of Chief Police Officers, told the Daily Star: 'In terms of cases relating to armed forces and veterans charities, of those that we see, the largest number by a long way relate to people who have got names similar to Help For Heroes.'
The number of cases has leapt from two in 2012 to 29 last year.
Like several others we could name
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I went onto charity commision site (https://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/ ) but it is entirely down. All you get is "The service is unavailable." wonder why?
Oh dear look what I have found from June 2012 ..
"Liam Fox partners with Afghan Heroes to offer holidays for soldiers
Former defence secretary MP Dr Liam Fox has launched a partnership with Afghan Heroes calling on second-home owners to donate time at their properties to soldiers, eight months after the last charity he founded was shut down.
The initiative is called Give Us Time and is a programme of the forces charity Afghan Heroes. The programme enables people to donate time in their second home, holiday home or time-share property to returned soldiers recovering from trauma.
The website went live yesterday. Fox has promised to write to fellow MPs encouraging them to “lead by example”.
He said: “Medical improvements in prosthetics, better physiotherapy and improved social attitudes all contributed to a better chance of rehabilitation. In terms of psychological trauma – the invisible scars of war – we are making progress, though perhaps at a slower rate.
“One of the areas where I think there remains room for improvement is the integration of service families into this equation.”
<a href="http://servedby.flashtalking.com/click/1/31415;778357;0;209;0/?ft_width=250&ft_height=250&url=4993397" target="_blank">< img border="0" src="http://servedby.flashtalking.com/imp/1/31415;778357;205;gif;Civilsocietycouk;250x250CharitiesMPU/?"></a>
The aim is to open the scheme to applications from service personnel in September and to then roll the programme out more widely in 2013.
The logistics of the programme will be managed by Afghan Heroes, which was founded in 2009 to support soldiers on the frontline and families affected by military operations, although Fox will be heavily involved.
Afghan Heroes’ founder, Denise Harris, said: “I know through personal experience how difficult it can be for those who have suffered loss or injury to recover. Give Us Time is a fantastic initiative and will go a long way to help those who have put their lives on the line readjust to a normal civilian life.”
The charity had already been trialling a similar initiative when Fox approached them with this idea. He was aware of the work of the charity because it launched in his constituency when he was shadow defence secretary.
Give Us Time has been funded by sponsorship from Serco, Venue Directory, Fanatic - which also did the branding and design for the company - and Cobweb. Virgin Trains has also agreed to offer free travel to participants.
Last autumn Atlantic Bridge, a charity founded by Fox, and run by his friend Adam Werritty, was removed from the Charity Commission’s register. After an investigation into its conduct in 2010, the Commission concluded that Atlantic Bridge did not meet its “educational objectives” and the trustees decided to wind the charity up, declaring in September 2011 that this had been done.
Fox resigned from his role as defence secretary in October 2011 following allegations that he had broken the ministerial code when it emerged that Werritty had accompanied him on 18 foreign trips, despite not having an official role. "
Kate McCann "I know that what happened is not due to the fact of us leaving the children asleep. I know it happened under other circumstances"
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