Norwich charity shuts down amid £50,000 scam allegation

Umbrella Foundation

The website of the Umbrella Foundation has now been taken down. The charity said it helped people in Uganda and London - Credit: Umbrella Foundation

A charity has been reported to authorities after a businessman alleged he lost £50,000 in a scam. 

The Charity Commission, which regulates the sector, confirmed it was looking into a complaint about the Umbrella Foundation, a charity which was registered at an office on Magdalen Street.  

It was set up in 2019, but put into liquidation this summer after the man made an allegation that £50,000 of his money had been scammed through the charity’s bank account.  

However, the Umbrella Foundation claimed it received the £50,000 as a donation and spent it on marketing.   

The man, from Glasgow, said he thought he was transferring £50,000 from his bank account to his online account where he traded currency with a company called Genesis 11.   

In April he said he was asked by Genesis 11 to send the money through the Umbrella Foundation's bank account. He said it was then meant to be converted into an online currency and moved into his account, but it never was.   

He said he thought the charity was acting as an intermediary to pass the money through and he had done this previously with other organisations when paying money into his Genesis 11 account without any problems.   

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“My wife was ill at the time and I had a lot on,” he said. “I had paid money into my online investment account before through a third party and the first few times I did this it was fine.   

“But this time it went to the Umbrella Foundation and then never appeared in my account.” 

The day after the money was paid to the Umbrella Foundation, the charity transferred £25,000 to a company in Hungary, according to an invoice seen by this newspaper. It states the money was for marketing services. 

In response, the Umbrella Foundation directed us to a report by its liquidator Begbies Traynor, which said the man’s money was used for marketing and volunteering costs. The report said the £50,000 was a donation from an online donor and the charity only found out later the funds had been sent “in error”.  

Sackville Place

Sackville Place on Magdalen Street, Norwich, where the Umbrella Foundation was based. - Credit: Archant

The liquidator’s report also said the charity received a £50,000 Government-backed “bounce back” loan which it said was also spent on further marketing and “external costs”.  

However, with the charity now in liquidation it has no assets to repay any of this money, the report showed.   

The Umbrella Foundation was registered as a charity in March 2019. Its sole trustee when it closed was a woman called Kristina Fields.  

Prior to that date, Ms Fields was a volunteer for the charity while its Trustees were Neil Walsh and Paul Van der Hulks, according to the liquidator’s report. 

All three trustees were directors of another company called SJ Global Investments Worldwide Ltd which was also put into liquidation in May this year.  

SJ Global

Neil Walsh and Kristina Fields were trustees of the Umbrella Foundation - Credit: SJ Global

The victim emailed the Umbrella Foundation in May to complain and received a reply from Ms Fields stating the £50,000 was given to the charity by someone in Dubai to fund their work and she had never heard of the investment platform Genesis 11.   

She wrote: “We would never jeopardise our charity if we were made aware the funds come from participation in fraud, but clearly, we were not aware.   

“We are happy to refund your money back to you as we don’t want to have anything to do with fraudulently gained funds.   

“Unfortunately our charity account is still blocked so we cannot refund from that.”   

However, despite repeated emails, the money has never been returned, the man said.  

The liquidator’s report said: “Disaster struck when Ms Fields, who at the time was only working at the charity as a volunteer, was contacted by the donor complaining that the funds were never intended as a donation and had in fact been misapplied.

"These funds had already been utilised and the charity could not support to repay them.  

“Despite exhaustive attempts to come to a settlement with the donor and generate funds to return his monies these remain unpaid.”  

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We have received this report and our enquiries are ongoing.”   

A Charity Commission spokesman added: “We are aware of these concerns and are currently assessing them in line with our regulatory and risk framework to determine our next steps."

The Umbrella Foundation’s website, which has been taken down, said it worked to help women in Uganda.  

According to the Charity Commission website, it also works with BAME communities in London. 

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