In her last (strangely mangled) blog post on the Knight Foundation blog, Belinda expressed grave concerns over today’s date, 1 May, the ‘fire and fertility’ festival of Beltane. Despite her Oxford education, Belinda somehow manages to conflate the Celtic festival with the Syrian Temple of Baal, but never mind.
We think we know the real reason Belinda is worried about today’s date: it’s the day she must pay to the National Westminster Bank PLC the remainder of her mortgage on her lovely house in leafy Highgate.
Last April, Belinda wrote the following ‘Statement of Truth’ on her Knight Foundation blog, regarding her involvement with the dodgy Iran Aid charity:
Funny that Belinda, who claims to be able to run large international charities, only just realised a year prior to the mortgage coming due, that she would have to set aside £20,000 per month to meet her obligations.
We know people who’d be delighted to see £20,000 per annum in income, but we suppose some people view ‘poverty’ through a different lens.
In any case, many questions have been raised about this mortgage. Possibly the most important is, “How could someone who claims to have inherited £4 million from her father require a mortgage?”
As commenter Pallas Athene recently pointed out,
Actually – as far as I can ascertain, her father didn’t leave her anything…or, anything like what she says. Her father was Ian Irvine Boswell, born 1917, died 1996. As wills are a public document I went searching for his will… but couldn’t find it on https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/#wills, where all probated grants and wills are available to view for a tenner. That puzzled me a bit, but after a little bit of digging (I’m not a solicitor, so don’t know the detail about these things) I discovered the intestacy rules…. so his wife, who was alive inherited most of his estate. She died in 2006. From what I could find out – her brother was probably the main inheritor after the mother.
So…it would seem that Belinda’s story about having inherited a boatload of cash, which she then kindly dispensed to various charities, leaving nothing for herself, might be just a teeny-weeny little lie.
This leaves the question, though, of how she managed to afford to buy (and maintain) the ‘Highgate Hub’?
What about Iran Aid?
For years, ugly rumours have abounded about Belinda’s relationship to her charity, Iran Aid.
In fact, Belinda’s above statement was written in an attempt to clear her name, as it’s long been known that approximately £5 million per year was being siphoned off into an individual’s bank account in Germany.
This excerpt from a report by the Charity Commission explains some of the issues involved with Iran Aid:
3. In March 1998 the Charity Commission received allegations that the charity was being used by a terrorist organisation, the Mujaheddin el Khalq (MKO), to raise funds. Under the Terrorism Act 2001 the MKO is now a proscribed organisation. Those making the allegations insisted on their details remaining confidential. This is not unusual in Inquiry cases.
4. In view of the possible political motives of any complainants, the Commission took what steps it could to establish the bona fides of the allegations. As a result of these enquiries the allegations were considered to warrant further consideration. However, because of the difficulty in obtaining verifiable and reliable evidence either proving or disproving links with a terrorist organisation, investigators decided to concentrate their enquiries on whether or not the charity spent its funds on its intended beneficiaries. The trustees have always denied links with terrorist organisations.
5. A previous Inquiry in 1996 resulted in the charity being warned about its fundraising methods. Despite this warning complaints from the public about Iran Aid’s fundraising methods reduced but continued at an unacceptable level.
6. On 8 May 1998, the Commission instituted an Inquiry under section 8 of the Charities Act 1993.
Formal Actions Taken
7. On 22 July 1998, after obtaining information from the charity’s bankers about the destination of the charity’s funds, the Commission froze Iran Aid’s bank accounts. The Commission was concerned to find that the funds, some £5 million per year, were all paid into an individual’s account in a country other than Iran.
8. On 23 July 1998, on the basis of information already obtained about the charity’s activities and the possible risk to its funds, a temporary manager known technically as a Receiver and Manager was appointed. He was appointed to carry out a range of duties including: –
- The management of the affairs of the charity whilst the Inquiry took place
- An assessment of the methods used by the charity to distribute its funds
- Formulating recommendations as to the long-term viability of the charity.
9. As soon the Receiver and Manager took control of the charity’s bank accounts the Commission unfroze them.
10. The Commission served Orders on the trustees requiring them to provide the charity’s records and in particular, those relating to payments to its beneficiaries.
11. On 6 November 2000, following a period of public notice, the Commission established a scheme. This had the effect of directing the Receiver and Manager to dissolve the charity and pass its net assets to a newly established independent charity, the Iran Aid Foundation (Charity 1082759). This new charity had been formed, following discussions by the Commission with supporters of the charity, for the purpose of receiving these assets.
12. In establishing how the charity operated and how it spent its funds the Commission came to the following findings and conclusions.
13. The Commission’s Inquiry identified a number of concerns about the charity’s fund-raising methods. These concerns included:-
- That some donors were misled into believing that they were personally sponsoring individual children when this was not in fact the case. The Commission concluded the sponsorship to be spurious and misleading.
14. During the previous Inquiry into the charity’s fund-raising activities, the Commission warned the trustees of the importance of conducting public fundraising properly. The present Inquiry highlighted similar concerns over the propriety of fundraising activities. In particular there were examples of misleading promotional literature, complaints by donors about high pressure “selling” techniques and an apparent failure to separate funds raised for different projects.
15. The Commission’s attempts to investigate fundraising issues further were hindered by the inability of the trustees to identify properly those volunteers responsible for fund-raising, and more particularly by the trustees’ inability or unwillingness to identify the co-ordinators apparently responsible for organising the volunteers.
The charity’s records
16. From the Commission’s enquiries it was apparent that the trustees had not met their obligations to maintain proper accounting records. These obligations arise under the requirements of the charity’s own governing document, statute and the common law duties of trustees. The Commission and the Receiver and Manager were unable properly to examine the books and records of the charity or to ascertain fully what accounting records existed. This was caused by a lack of co-operation on the part of the trustees, and an unlawful occupation of the charity’s premises that occurred between October 1998 and June 2000. As a result, the Commission was unable to conclude that the accounting records required by law existed or were properly kept. The occupation raised the following issues:-
17. The occupation of the charity’s premises started with the expressed intention of denying the Commission and Receiver and Manager the full access to records that both were legally entitled to receive. The trustees said that they played no part in this illegal occupation and could not identify any of those responsible, but the occupation had a deleterious effect on the Commission’s ability to scrutinise the charity’s records.
18. The occupation also raised serious concerns about the charity’s ability to operate in the future. Those in occupation made it clear that they were unwilling to permit any access to the charity’s premises and records unless the Commission allowed the charity to function as it did before the Receiver and Manager was appointed. The occupation ended with the destruction of all records that might have been expected to show how the charity distributed its funds.
19. Prior to the occupation the trustees had applied to the courts for a temporary injunction preventing the removal by the Receiver and Manager of the charity’s records. The High Court refused an application by the trustees of the charity to extend this temporary injunction and made it clear that the Receiver and Manager had a right of possession and control over the charity’s records. In the Court’s view the assurances given to the trustees about the security of the records were proper and entirely adequate.
Transmission of funds to Iran and their application.
20. During the course of the Inquiry neither the Commission, nor the Receiver and Manager, were able to see any substantive and verifiable evidence to show how the charity spent its funds in Iran, or even that the funds eventually arrived there. As a result the Commission was unable to confirm that funds reached Iran or were applied in the furtherance of the charity’s objects.
21. The trustees maintained that the methods used to transmit and distribute funds were necessary, taking into account the vulnerability of the recipients and the circumstances in Iran. However the way that this was carried out was inherently unaccountable, and was incapable of any independent verification.
22. The charity’s funds were all sent via a middleman based in the Middle East, but not in Iran. The Commission interviewed this intermediary in Germany with the aim of establishing the reason for the charity transmitting its funds in this way and how these funds might then reach the charity’s beneficiaries in Iran. Despite this interview, investigators were unable to establish sufficient details about the individual or his activities to suggest he was an appropriate person to handle these significant amounts of money. The trustees claimed to have references for him but would not show them to investigators.
23. The trustees effectively had no control over the distribution of funds once these left the charity’s bank accounts in this country. Furthermore the trustees were unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for certain missing funds having admitted that by their own reckoning, 10% of the funds sent to Iran could not be accounted for. The trustees were also unable to show that adequate financial controls were in place over the distribution of funds through a complex network of intermediaries.
24. During the Inquiry investigators sought information from other Government Departments including the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. These bodies had no knowledge of the charity operating in Iran. Representatives of Charities that operated in Iran were also asked whether they had had any contact with Iran Aid during their relief work; none had. These discussions also gave rise to serious doubts that a charity would be able to run such a large covert organisation inside Iran, supporting some 14,000 children, without it being detected by the authorities and stopped.
25. The trustees did not co-operate fully with requests for information from the Commission’s investigators or the Receiver and Manager. Notwithstanding the trustees’ claims that records and evidence existed but were no longer available to them, the trustees did not assist even when the information requested was expected to be within their control and ability to deliver.
26. Having fully considered the evidence, including the trustees’ responses to our enquiries, the Commission was satisfied that that there had been, at the very least, mismanagement in the affairs of the charity. It was also necessary or desirable for the Commission to act to protect the property of the charity, or secure a proper application for the purpose of the charity. The conditions prescribed by section 18(1) of the Charities Act 1993, needed before the Commission could take formal remedial action, were therefore met.
27. A remedial scheme was established which had the effect of directing the Receiver and Manager to dissolve the charity and pass its assets to a new independent charity, the Iran Aid Foundation.
28. During the occupation of the charity’s premises Commission staff held meetings with a number of people who might have been able to influence the occupiers to allow the Commission access to the records. A final decision on the future of the charity was delayed while these discussions took place. During these discussions the idea of setting up a new charity to carry on the charitable work of Iran Aid, but under a differently constituted trustee body, emerged. The Commission was pleased to be able to facilitate this.
29. The Commission reported the illegal destruction of the records to the police, as an offence under section 11 of the Charities Act 1993 appeared to have been committed. At the time of publication of this report police enquiries are ongoing.
30. In order to support public confidence in the integrity of charity generally, the activities of any charity must be verifiable and accountable and permit effective supervision by the Court or the Commission should that prove necessary. A charity may be required to produce any document to the Commission where it is relevant to the Commission’s statutory functions.
31. Charities working in circumstances where the identity or other information about beneficiaries needs to remain confidential have the same requirement of any other charity to keep records that will, if called for, allow for effective supervision by the Commission.
32. S41 of the Charities Act 1993 requires charity trustees to ensure that accounting records be kept which are sufficient to show and explain all the charity’s transactions.
33. S 506 of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988 provides that a payment made (or to be made) to a body situated outside the United Kingdom shall not be qualifying expenditure for the purposes of tax concessions unless the charity concerned has taken such steps as may be reasonable in the circumstances to ensure that the payment will be applied for charitable purposes.
34. Charities that fundraise, especially when the fundraising activities take place across a wide area or through a network of volunteer collectors, must ensure that their control systems are sufficiently rigorous to ensure proper compliance with good practice so as not to bring the name of the charity, or charities in general, into disrepute.
35. Trustees must be able to devote sufficient time to their duties to effectively monitor the actions of their senior volunteers or staff. In the case of a charity which is run effectively on a day to day basis by volunteers the trustees should be aware of the identities and addresses of these individual and the duties they carry out
Oddly enough, an Iranian gentleman by the name of Esmail Vafa Yaghmaie, whom Belinda has repeatedly described as her ‘husband’ (although he has never lived with her in Highgate, and has never appeared on the title deeds to that property) was living in Germany during the time when the Iran Aid funds were being siphoned off.
Probably coincidence, we’re sure.
But if Belinda and her ‘husband’ had been skimming from the Iran Aid coffers, why would Belinda not simply buy her Highgate mansion outright? And why would she have been forced to mortgage the home in order to provide funds to her MKO/MEK friends?
A most confusing picture
In Belinda’s blog excerpt, above, she says,
By 2004 I had parted with some £1.7 million in all to this cause, including taking out a mortgage on my house. I made it very clear to my friends in the Iranian community that this money was mainly a loan and that in due course I would need it to be repaid in full, all bar £300,000 which I wrote off as an outright gift, but the rest, £1,400,000 would need to come back to me.
This is what has been happening over the 10 years since that time; the Iranians have been faithfully repaying me what they owe me in the form of monthly payments which I dispense in turn to my own humanitarian causes and cases. More recently however, I began to request that the process of repayment be speeded up as I have to settle my mortgage to the tune of £300,000 in 2016. Accordingly, in 2015 the remaining monthly repayments have gone up to £20,000 a month which goes straight into a mortgage account for the purpose of meeting the 2016 deadline. By May 2016 the repayment of my loan and by extension the settlement of my mortgage account will be fully concluded.
We’re not clear how this works. Either she is using the money she receives from the MEK/MKO for ‘humanitarian causes and cases’, or she is using it to settle her mortgage. Not both.
Blackmailed by the MEK/MKO?
And oddly enough, a website called Iran-Interlink.org , which appears to have an anti-MEK/MKO slant, reported in January 2015 that Belinda’s ‘husband’ was complaining that the MEK had duped poor Belinda:
Iran Interlink, January 30 2015:… Yaghmaei wrote to expose the MEK’s deception of an English activist and friend Belinda McKenzie. The MEK took money from her through unethical influence after persuading her to re-mortgage her house and hand over around £300,000 which they promised would be repaid “after the overthrow of the Iranian regime”…
Internal critic Esmail Vafa Yaghmaei wrote to expose the MEK’s deception of an English activist and friend Belinda McKenzie. The MEK took money from her through unethical influence after persuading her to re-mortgage her house and hand over around £300,000 which they promised would be repaid “after the overthrow of the Iranian regime”. Yaghmaei tells the MEK he will sue if they don’t return her money now. The MEK responded through the NCRI to say ‘these are the actions of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry’, and accused Yaghmaei and McKenzie of being part of a conspiracy to start a new court case against the MEK…..
The MEK also published tens of receipts and cheques made out to Yaghmaei and two other former NCRI members, Karim Ghassim and Mohammad Reza Rowhani, saying they have received thousands of pounds from the NCRI, but with no further explanation. The MEK admits it took McKenzie’s money but said it agreed to pay this back after the MEK “topples the Iranian regime”. The MEK also offered a veiled threat by accusing McKenzie of having worked with Iran Aid charity – which was closed by the Charity Commission – with the implication that she had been involved in its wrongdoing [money laundry].
Yaghmaei responded to the MEK/NCRI saying “the receipts and cheques were for the rent of an apartment which I shared with one of your MEK members. At the same time we gave our social security payments to you.” He adds sarcastically, “those payments were for a few thousand French Franks in those times. Now suddenly you say you have paid me hundreds of thousands of Euros, yet offer no evidence and no explanation; what would I possibly do for you for this amount of money?” He finishes with a dig; “Anyway, what is the source of your money, and have you paid tax on it in France?”
So which is it, Belinda?
Are your Iranian friends ‘faithfully repaying’ your £1.7 million loan; or must they be arm-twisted into paying back a £300,000 loan? And is it correct that the MEK/MKO is threatening you with exposure over the Iran Aid fraud? Is this why you’re feeling a bit frazzled about the old cash flow these days?
As for that mortgage repayment, given the lacklustre performance of the Hampstead SRA hoax, which never really lived up to the initial hype, and seems to have netted a rather paltry sum for the ‘Knight Foundation’, we can see why Belinda might be hitting the bottle a little too hard these days.