I helped the Sunday Telegraph with a report out today on a charity called the Portland Trust promoted by Sir Ronald Cohen, a close adviser to Gordon Brown and the person seen as the 'father' of the UK private equity industry.
As we reveal, this is a charity that in one year paid almost half its income to leading private equity company Apax Partners for rent and management services. It also pays its staff over Â£100,000 a year each on average. As the Telegraph notes, based on my research:
By comparison, no employee at the charities Christian Aid and Save the Children Fund receives more than Â£100,000. The best-paid officials at the RSPCA and the Prince's Trust receive less than Â£110,000.
Despite this, there is no record of the Portland Trust having achieved anything to date. As the charity told the Telegraph:
Four years after its creation, the charity's flagship project, a "loan guarantee scheme" to help small and medium-sized firms in Galilee and the Palestinian territories secure funding, has yet to be launched.
Mr Freud said 300 businesses had benefited from the charity's work to date but admitted that progress had not been as rapid as hoped.
The issue is being reported to the Charity Commissioners in the UK. It raises serious issues for UK tax law. We are asking why the accounts are so opaque when charity accounting standards are now specific about the requirements for transparency.
But most of all I'm just curious about the relationship with both Apax and Ronald Cohen, who I suspect needs to prove his Middle East links to keep his domicile in the region.
Answers are needed on these points or such a strange entity should lose its charitable status. Let's hope they are forthcoming.
NOTE added 29-2-08: The Portland Trust has advised me that the Charity Commission found no issues to investigate as a result of the referral made to them by the Sunday Telegraph.