HEARTLESS FRAUD

Charitable donations and public money has been sponged up by fraudsters claiming to have been involved in the Greenfell Tower tragedy, to get handouts and stays in hotels.

One fraudster, Joyce Msokeri, 47, from Zimbabwe was jailed for four and a half years in April for convincing charity workers she had lost her husband in the fire and faking trauma to swindle £19,000 and claim a room in a Hilton hotel. Another was Vietnamese illegal immigrant Anh Nhu Nguyen, 57 who was comforted by Prince Charles as he falsely claimed he had lost his wife and son to swindle £11,270. However he was a serial fraudster with 17 aliases and was jailed for 21 months in February.

Also jailed, for 18 months in early June was business student Mohammad Gamoota, 31, who falsely claimed to be the son of a victim to swindle £7,000 and a free stay in a hotel. And two fraudsters, Elaine Douglas, 51, and Tommy Brooks, 52, who both came to the UK from Jamaica illegally 16 years ago face jail after swindling £120,000 in benefits by claiming they lived in Greenfell Tower. They also enjoyed a spend of more than £20,000 on pre-paid credit cards and eight months in a four star hotel costing £400 a night, where they complained about the free food they were given.

Police say that they have arrested another nine individuals, eight men and a woman, suspected of the heartless fraud.

NO ONE TO TURN TO

A report for Save The Children into the abuse of children by charity aid workers, No One To Turn To, contains horrific accounts of instances.

In one case a young boy in Haiti saw an aid worker lure a homeless girl with $1 and then rape her. In another a 14-year-old boy in the Cote D’Ivoire alleged that aid workers would “share” girls and film them.

An investigation in 2008 revealed that in cases of child abuse the families of victims were powerless to act.

NICE WORK

Fundraising companies are doing rather well out of charities that employ them and their teams of “chuggers” (charity muggers).

A report last month in the Daily Mail shows that some of the firms take the first year or so of direct debit donations as their fee, something of which donors will be unaware. One firm, One Sixty Fundraising has charged an upfront fee of £1.303,731 to Unicef, which hopes to raise more than £5million over four years but will have to wait around twelve months before they cover these costs. Another client of the firm, Plan International, have been charged £478,000 plus VAT, with hopes that it can raise £1,304,940 over 5 years, but will not be covering the costs for 27 months. Two firms working for Barnados, Real Fundraising and Urban Leaf Ltd have charged fees of nearly £30,000 with the prospect for Barnados of raising £80-90,000 over five years but waiting around 20 months before costs are covered.

Chuggers are seen by many as unwelcome high pressure sales operatives who pounce on their victims during rush hours and lunch breaks, and in more than 100 towns they are banned from canvassing on certain days. In some parts of Newcastle they have been banned altogether, using Public Spaces Protection Orders.

DEATH OF RSPCA SAVIOUR

An RSPCA inspector died trying to save 40 gannets that had been trapped on a rock at Porthchapel Beach, Cornwall during Storm Imogen in 2016, an inquest has heard.

Mike Reid, 54, is the only RSPCA employee to have ever been killed during the course of his job in the last 180 years and it is thought he was swept out to sea during the violent storm, which had wind gusts reaching 100 mph. His body has never been recovered.

BIAS COULD LOSE CHARITY STATUS

The Legatum Institute, a charity think tank, has been warned by the Charity Commission that it could lose its charitable status if it continues to publish biased material.

The Institute published a pro-Brexit report on Brexit and free trade prepared by its research body, the Special Trade Commission, and claimed when challenged that the bias was “wholly unintentional”.

KNOW YOUR KNOTWEED

Conservation charity Plantlife has issued some information about Japanese knotweed following research which showed that less than 20% of the population could identify it growing near their property or in their garden.

Getting it wrong can be expensive – the plant can penetrate cracks in brickwork and concrete and has roots that can grow down as far as 9 feet, and out 21 feet in all directions – and getting rid of it can cost up to £15,000. Plantlife advise to look for lush green heart-shaped leaves on zig-zag purple-speckled stems. The rhizomes, the horizontal roots that produce the white shoots, are bright orange when cut open. In spring reddish purple shoots emerge from ground level crimson buds, and grow into bamboo-like canes flecked with purple and with cream-coloured flowers. These canes die back to ground level in the winter.

In a recent court case two homeowners in South Wales successfully sued Network Rail after knotweed spread from a railway embankment to the foundations of their houses. This made them unsalable, as banks and building societies won’t give mortgages on properties with a knotweed problem. However this could change as recent research by the University of Leeds and infrastructure services firm AECOM shows that the invasive plant very rarely causes structural damage and in any case less than trees, climbing plants and shrubs such as buddleia growing near buildings.

NO SKINNY-DIPPING

The National Trust has issued warnings based on Health and Safety to members of the public seen swimming naked in its lakes at Woodchester Park, near Stroud, Gloucestershire.

One complainant stated on social media that the dippers were “scaring the carp and making her and her dog feel sick” A Trust spokesman told the press “For one thing the water is very cold”.

ITALY LEADS THE WAY

Italy has become the first European country to ban all advertising for gambling.

TV, radio and internet promotions will be halted from January next year, and sports clubs barred from having gambling sponsors, amid evidence that 400,000 Italians were problem gamblers (last year’s figure) an increase of 400% over the last ten years. Commenting on the growth of the gambling industry in Italy deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio told the press “I think this is an industry that has become a bit too big at the expense of people’s health and dignity. We are going to cut it down in size”.

In the UK our Treasury, assisted by our chancellor Phillip Hammond, has slowed down the rate of progress on the dropping of the maximum bet on addictive Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, FOBT’s, from £100 to £2, a measure which they have delayed till April 2020 over concerns they will lose the substantial revenue they make from problem gamblers. Advertising of gambling has also come under increased fire when it exploits sports events, such as the current World Cup, uses cartoon images to sell to the young and pays BBC football pundits such as Alan Shearer and Robbie Savage to promote gambling.

BAD PR FOR BA

British Airways has apologised for cancelling the flights of 2,000 passengers after it discovered that the cheap fares offered were a mistake made by BA.

The airline rufused to honour the bookings made to destinations such as Dubai and Tel Aviv for around £195 return, instead refunding the money and offering a £100 voucher for a flight that costs £1,000 with BA.

Customers let down have said that the cheap price was not so cheap that it was obviously a mistake, a reason for BA to legally cancel their bookings, and have cited fares to Tel Aviv for £215, just £20 more than the BA price. However it is thought that only a successful legal challenge by a let-down BA customer would be likely to persuade BA to “do the decent thing” and let passengers fly at the price booked.

TRUST GEORGE OSBOURNE AND EVENING STANDARD?

Concerns over the editorial credibility of the London Evening Standard and its editor George Osbourne have increased in the wake of the launch of “editorial” package London 2020 reportedly offered to six major companies.

Apparently the six, which include Google and Uber (in which one of Mr Osbourne’s employers, BlackRock, have a £500million stake) are being offered “money cant buy” positive news and “favourable” comment pieces for £500,000 each. One company that says it was approached in this way is Starbucks, which says that the deal on offer did amount to buying biased reports, which would be “PR death”, and that they didn’t need to buy their reputation in this way.

George Osbourne’s paymasters at the Evening Standard are Moscow-based oligarch (definition in Russia, a very rich business leader with a great deal of political influence) Alexander Lebedef and his London-based son Evgeny.