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Wednesday, 10 January, 2001, 16:29 GMT
Celebrity charity denies corruption
Pavarotti and Lionel Ritchie
Pavarotti and Lionel Ritchie perform at a War Child benefit
A high-profile British charity has hit back at claims of financial mis-management and corruption levelled at it in a British newspaper.

War Child UK, which raises money for young victims of war around the world, has been accused of accepting bribes and spending excessive amounts of money on management, following an investigation by the Guardian and Channel 4 News.

David Bowie
David Bowie resigned as a patron of the charity
Celebrity patrons of the charity, who included Luciano Pavarotti, David Bowie and Juliet Stevenson, quit after the co-founder and a charity consultant were accused of accepting an alleged bribe.

Bill Leeson, co-founder of War Child UK, was allegedly given a 14,700 bribe from contractors building the Pavarotti music centre in Mostar, Bosnia in 1996.

But a statement from War Child UK said the investigation amounted to nothing more than "criticism of its distant past".

A spokesman for War Child UK told BBC News Online that Mr Leeson and Mike Terry, employed as a consultant, returned the 14,700 given to them at the end of 1996.

War Child has raised millions of pounds of aid since it was set up in 1993, with the original aim of helping children in war-torn Bosnia.

Probity

Since then the charity has been involved in projects in Liberia, Guatemala and Rwanda, and has raised money through high-profile concerts and the release of a charity record as well as spawning sister organisations War Child Italy and War Child USA.

The statement from War Child UK read: "The Guardian has alleged that there were breaches in basic standards of probity.

"However, if true, they occurred years ago and the responsibility to correct these breaches rested with the trustees at that time. None of these trustees remain on the board of War Child."

The spokesman for the charity said that Mr Leeson and Mr Terry were no longer involved with War Child UK.

Celebrity patrons and trustees quit the charity in 1999 after the alleged bribe, and over concerns about the use of money raised through donations being used to cover management costs incurred by War Child UK.

3m raised

The Guardian report claims that money specifically earmarked for projects in Liberia and Bosnia was spent covering management fees in London.

More than 3m was raised for the Pavarotti centre in Bosnia but only 2.19m was handed over, according to the Guardian.

But the statement from War Child UK said: "All monies received by War Child for the Pavarotti music centre project were spent on that project."

It added: "The charge of high administrative expenses, poor accounting and inadequate management structures are inaccurate."

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said the organisation was aware of the problems at War Child UK.

She said: "We have been intensively involved with the trustees about a number of financial and administrative matters since they approached us in 1998 and they have acted appropriately and responsibly in bringing their problems to our attention."

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