Bike charity founders banned for taking £300,000 out of funds

The two trustees paid themselves over a quarter of the charity's total income

Two of the founders of the Jole Rider Friends bike charity have been banned from being charity trustees until 2031.

David Swettenham and Helen King paid themselves £322,500 over a ten-year period, nearly a quarter of all the income received by the organisation.

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After numerous failures to submit financial accounts on time the charity was investigated by the Charity Commission, which led to an official inquiry in 2017 and culminated in the organisation being shut down in September last year.

The Charity Commission found the trustees responsible for serious misconduct in how they handled their organisation’s finances and governance.

Based in Gloucester, the charity provided refurbished bikes to African school children and operated from a bike shop set up in 2005.

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The pair continued to make unauthorised payments to themselves even after the Commission told them to stop. They refused to pay back the money saying that doing so would not be in the interest of the charity.

The watchdog also concluded the charity was insolvent and were also unable or unwilling to supply a list of people it owed money to.

Swettenham and King have now been banned for 12 years from acting as charity trustees.

Amy Spiller, Head of the Investigations Team at the Charity Commission, said: “Charities exist to improve lives and strengthen society –so it’s a legitimate expectation that trustees take their responsibilities seriously. This starts with trustees ensuring charitable funds are spent on the charity’s aims and purpose.

“The trustees of the Jole Rider grossly misused charity in paying themselves unauthorised remuneration and in doing so, they betrayed their donors as well as those that could have benefited from this charitable support.

“Their behaviour throughout, both in the running of their charity, as well as during this inquiry, was a world apart from that expected of trustees. It’s therefore right that both trustees have been disqualified for the part they played in this matter.”