A soldier’s charity is to close down after it raked in £555,000 in donations – but spent just £15,000 on actually helping people.
Afghan Heroes was founded by Denise Harris in memory of her son Lee who was killed by an improvised explosive device in Nad-e-Al while serving in Afghanistan in July 2009.
The Charity Commission froze the organisation’s bank accounts and launched an inquiry in December into the charity which helps hard-up and injured former soldiers.
But an interim manager has now declared the charity “no longer a viable concern” and would be wound up while the investigation continues.
In a letter to former volunteers, interim manager Brian Johnson of HW Fisher & Company, said: “As a result I am, I am in the process of winding down the operations of the charity and no further action should take place in terms of events or to her fundraising or support activities.”
During 2012, Afghan Heroes received £548,440, and while it spent £516,288, just £15,153 went on helping soldiers and their families.
Some £241,014 was spent on encouraging people to donate money, £233,910 on fundraising events, and a staggering £190,479 on wages for eight full-time and 16 part-time staff.
Fundraiser Tony Hall, volunteered for the charity four days a week and raised around £20,000 for the organisation over three years after he met founder Denise Harris.
Tony, who left when he found out the charity was under investigation, said: “I feel sorry for them in truth.
“She lost her son and that is sad. They didn’t expect this. They expected to get through it I think.
“I don’t hate them for that has happened. It is just that I wonder where the money has gone sometimes.
“It is all very well saying it is being would up and it is not ‘viable’ but where has all the fund raising that we worked so hard for gone?”
The commission met with the trustees last October to discuss misgivings but still had concerns about financial mismanagement so started an inquiry.
In a statement at the time, the watchdog said it is looking at the charity’s management and administration including “the significant risk to, and potential loss of, the charity’s funds or other property”.
It is also investigating “unmanaged conflicts of interest and unauthorised trustee benefits” and whether trustees have made any failings.
A report will be published following the conclusion of the inquiry.
In a statement in December, Denise Harris, 50, said the Somerset-based charity had tried to act properly and the last year had been busy.
She said: “The charity was set up in 2009 when my son died while serving in Afghanistan and is run by a very small team, with most activities undertaken by myself and my husband.
“In the past year we have opened our first retreat for service personnel in Somerset, which has five bedrooms that are currently fully occupied.
“Full financial disclosure and access to our records has been made to the Charity Commission, which will report in due course.
“We have tried to act properly and within the regulations at all times.
“The inquiry will reveal whether anyone within the organisation has made any mistakes or mismanaged anything during an incredibly busy period for us.
“Our aim is for funds donated to benefit our troops.
“We are working with our advisers and the Charity Commission to resolve this issue and ensure that the best interests of recovering personnel are uppermost.”
Since it launched in 2009, Afghan Heroes has provided money to build memorials, organised holidays for families of wounded soldiers, and set up two retreats in Ashcott and Minehead, in Somerset.
A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said she could not comment on an ongoing inquiry.