Costs' take 92pc of UK income

The Guardian, London/July 8, 1993
By Ian Katz and Tom Sharratt

The distinctive pine collection boxes began appearing in west London In 1987. The message stencilled on most seemed straightforward. "Clothes for people in the third world."

In its charity registration Humana stated that it aimed to "advance education and to relieve poverty and relieve suffering where caused by famine, war, natural and man-made disasters anywhere in the world."

Directors were listed as Jesper Wohlert, Steen Conradsen and Ellen Mueller. Since then the names at the bottom of Humana UK's annual reports, always Danish, have changed regularly. Mikala Gottlob. a founder member of the Danish Tvind educational organisation, Is currently chairman. The charity's registered address isThe Small School at Buxton. Norwich, one of two Tvind schools in Britain.

In Its first year the clothes collection and recycling operation made a loss. But by the end of 1988 the organisation had shown a £114.094 operating profit, £22,000 of which was donated to charitable projects. Humana's turnover rose steadily: £520,626 in 1989, £702,891 in 1990, and a figure over £1 million for 1991, though full accounts have not yet been filed for the year.

The amounts donated to charitable projects did not rise quite so dramatically: £47.674, or approximately 6 per cent of the organisation's income in 1989, £54.499 (8 per cent) in 1990 and a similar proportion in 1991 and 1992 according to Ms Gottlob.

She says the charity now has seven shops and around 500 collecting boxes in Britain but has been able to donate only a small proportion of its income because of high start-up costs. "It takes some time to build up and actually get the value out of secondhand clothes."

Humana's reports to the Charity Commission for 1989 and 1990 show that donations were made to two projects, a TV company called All Europe Satellite Television and an organisatlon called the International Emergency Centre.

All Europe Satellite Television, established in 1986, broadcast programmes submitted by state broadcasting corporations of third world countries and DAPP information films from a Norwegian base via the French satellite. Utelsat, on the so called One World Channel.

The programme for October 11 1989 offers a taste of its output: 9.30 - Interview with Dr. Julius Nyerere, the former Tanzanian president. 9.45 - Speech by Dr. Julius Nyerere. Shutdown. Humana UK donated more than £30,000 to the TV station in 1989 and 1990 and more In the following two years. It stopped broadcasting last September because, according to Ms Gottlob, "we found that a lot of what One World Channel was doing was being done by other broadcasters."

The regular and sizeable donations - £32,500 in 1989 and £38,493 in 1990 - made to the International Emergency Centre are less easy to trace.

According to Humana's reports the centre is a Belgium-based organisation which Is "establishing a store of packages containing new clothes ready for distribution in emergency situations."

No organisation of that name Is registered in Belgium and no voluntary aid official contacted had heard of it. Ms Gottlob. who was not sure she had heard of It herself, thought it might now be based in Holland. The Centraal Bureau Fonsenwerving (CBF), the Dutch equivalent of the Charity Commission, was not aware of it.

In 1990 DAPP gave an address at Holland Park, west London to a Swedish government investigation which proved to be an administrative address at which the company had been registered after the Swedish inquiry. The contact number for the centre was the Cayman Islands telephone number used by the Tvind/DAPP company Tropical Produce Ltd.

In 1989 Richard Lugg, a Hounslow council officer, found that the charity was paying thousands of pounds to lease containers from Goliath Services, a Jersey-registered company whose shareholders were linked with the Tvind/DAPP organisation.

The charity was also paying almost £10,000 a year to lease vehicles from Resources Recycling, registered at the same London address as Humana. At the end of last year the charity was told to remove its boxes from public footpaths In the west London borough.

Stickers have recently appeared on Humana collection boxes listing four destinations for money raised in 1992 including child aid programmes In St. Lucia, Zambia, Angola and Guinea Bissau, a tree planting project in Angola and One World Channel, but no accounts showing these donations have yet been submitted.

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