‘HMRC let us down,’ says charity whose treasurer was jailed for £270,000 fraud

06 Jun 2019 News

HMRC building

Fergus Burnett

Ex-offenders charity Life Keys has criticised HM Revenue and Customs for its response when it reported fraud, which led to more than £270,000 being stolen.

On 31 May, the charity’s former treasurer Dale Hicks was sentenced to three years in jail at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court after pleading guilty to one charge of fraud by false representation and two charges of producing false documents at the hearing.

Hicks had claimed more than £330,000 on behalf of the ex-offenders charity between 2014 and 2016, but £62,000 of this was withheld whilst investigations were carried out.

Speaking to Civil Society News, Life Keys’ chair Diana Cutler said she felt “let down” by HMRC's response to its initial reports of fraudulent activity.

According to Cutler, the charity originally contacted the police and HMRC in March 2016 when it became aware of the fraudulent activity.

But Cutler said: "The people who really let us down were HMRC.

"I tried in vain for months to report this to them and there was nobody I could contact."

HMRC declined to comment on Cutler’s remarks directly however a spokesperson emphasised the fact that it froze payments from the account in June 2016.

The spokesperson added: “HMRC takes fraud very seriously and has a strong track record for tackling evasion and rule-breaking of all kinds, generating a record £30.3bn in 2017/18 alone that would otherwise have gone unpaid.

“Anybody who knows of anyone committing any type of tax fraud can call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

Cutler also said she had been disappointed by the Charity Commission’s response after she reported the fraud to it in May 2016.

She said: “They were not a bit interested in helping. All they wanted to do is point the finger and say ‘you haven’t done this right and you haven’t done that right’.”

A spokesperson for the Charity Commission said it was not the regulator's role to investigate criminal matters.

They said: “The Commission’s role is to ensure charity trustees’ compliance with the charity law framework; we cannot investigate criminal matters, which we sought to explain to the trustees throughout our engagement.

"We were clear that the trustees had done the right thing by reporting their concerns to the relevant authorities, and that we could not intervene in such matters.

"We recognise that this can be frustrating for some, however it is right that due process is followed, and that we are able to look into our regulatory concerns appropriately.”

This article was amended on 7 June to remove an inacurrate assertion that HMRC "did nothing" in its response.

Civil Society Media's Charity Finance Week takes place in October and this year the theme is Accounts and Accountability. Find out more about the events taking place. 

 

 

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