Charity Commission finds married trustees took almost £1m from sports charity

08 Apr 2022 News

Former Paralympian Matthew Dimbylow and his wife Emma have been found responsible of serious misconduct after paying themselves up to £1m in charitable funds. 

The couple were trustees of the sports charity Dream It, Believe It, Achieve It (DIBIAI).

The Commission's inquiry into the charity found they paid £975,800 of charitable funds to three companies under their control. The charity is now in the process of being wound up. 

Matthew Dimbylow had “intended to extract funds” from the charity since its registration, the regulator said. He initially proposed he and his wife would receive salaries of £60,000 - £80,000 before the watchdog told him this was unacceptable.

He subsequently amended the charity's governing document to ensure him and his wife could receive funds via their companies. 

Only 5% of money raised went to charity

The regulator found that between 2011 – 2014 the charity raised over £6m in scratch card lotteries.

Only 5% of the proceeds went to charitable purposes, whilst 70% was spent on the running of the lottery. Meanwhile, the rest was paid to the Dimbylow’s external companies.  

The Commission found the couple was responsible for serious misconduct and mismanagement. Matthew has been permanently disqualified from acting as a trustee, whilst Emma – who resigned in 2016 – has signed an undertaking not to act as a trustee again. 

The Commission has since taken legal action to secure the return of misapplied funds.

Former Paralympian was the 'driving force behind the charity'

DIBIAI was formed as a company in 2009 and became a charity four years later. The regulator said Matthew Dimbylow was the “driving force” behind the charity’s operations.

The regulator began working with the charity in 2014, after press reports alleged 74% of the charity’s expenditure was spent on fundraising and following up complaints.

The Commission provided regulatory advice to combat the mismanagement at the charity, but the trustees failed to enact the guidance. The regulator had also asked for “evidence to explain or support the payments to the related party companies” which was not provided.

This led the Commission to escalate its engagement with the charity to a statutory inquiry. 

The charity has a record of consistently filing its annual accounts late. Its 2018 accounts were filed 167 days late and its 2019 accounts were filed 171 days late. 

Though Civil Society News approached the charity for a comment, it did not receive a response. 

‘The Dimbylows abused the trust that was placed in them’

At the time of registration, the Dimbylows intended to be the only trustees of the charity. After being told this was unacceptable by the regulator, two more trustees were appointed. 

Amy Spiller, head of investigations at the Charity Commission, said: “The public expects trustees to ensure charitable funds are always carefully managed in the best interests of their charity and the cause they serve, in this case supporting children and disabled people with sport. Instead, the Dimbylows abused the trust that was placed in them as trustees.

“It is right that we took action to recover misapplied charitable funds that went to the former trustees’ own companies and acted to ensure those responsible cannot become trustees again. We hope this sends a powerful message to others who may be tempted to use charity in this way.”

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