Concern at charity payments to Glenn

MIRIYANA ALEXANDER
Last updated 05:00 28/07/2013
Owen Glenn
JOHN KIRK ANDERSON/ Fairfax NZ
Owen Glenn

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Sir Owen Glenn's charitable trust is under scrutiny after an email from a senior executive flagged irregular payments from the charity to the multimillionaire businessman.

Details of the payments - to a bloodstock company and Glenn's personal bank account - are outlined in an email from the then Glenn Family Foundation Charitable Trust's general manager, Peter McGlashan, to Glenn.

The June 11 email tells Glenn that the "large international transfer payments you requested be made to Bloodstocks Ltd and to your account in Sydney" had been done, and asks for confirmation they were received.

The email goes on to say that the payments "are not typical" of a charitable trust and will "no doubt need explaining" when the charity's accounts are being prepared.

"I'd imagine there will have to be a conversation at some stage at board level, about how these types of transactions are classified from an accounting point of view, as they, and the boats expenses, are not typical of a charitable trust and will no doubt need explaining when the accountants are compiling the foundation's financials, which, as I understand because of GFF's charitable status, may be available publicly.

"I'll leave it for you and the board to discuss at your next meeting."

McGlashan, a former New Zealand cricketer, has since resigned and would not comment on the email, saying he was bound by a confidentiality agreement.

Glenn's public relations consultant, Niki Schuck, said he could not be contacted for comment.

It is not known what the payments were for, or whether the bloodstock payment referred to Go Bloodstock NZ Ltd, a company 100 per cent owned by Glenn.

A charities law specialist said such payments should "sound alarm bells".

Harkness Henry partner Jarrod True said it was only appropriate for charity money to be paid to those working for it at "reasonable commercial rates".

"There should be no reason whatsoever for any personal transactions to be going through a charitable trust's account, and if they are, that should sound off alarm bells," he said.

The Charities Commission could investigate if it was concerned about any charity's accounts, he said.

Department of Internal Affairs charities services general manager Brendon Ward would not discuss individual charities but said it would "examine closely any information we receive that would indicate a breach of the Charities Act".

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It is the latest controversy to dog Glenn's proposed $80 million spend to fight child abuse in New Zealand. The various projects, including the troubled $2m inquiry into domestic violence and child abuse, are being run out of the charitable trust, of which Glenn is a trustee.

The first sign of trouble came earlier this year when grants to the projects were frozen because of an apparent dispute in Glenn's family trust over the charity donations. Glenn went to the United States, but it is not known if the issue has

been resolved or if money is available to continue the work.

Then key staff started leaving the domestic violence inquiry amid concerns about how it was being run. Original executive director Ruth Herbert and operations director Jessica Trask - McGlashan's wife - left the inquiry.

Glenn is said to be reconsidering his role in the inquiry after the Sunday Star-Times revealed he was charged with physically abusing his personal assistant, Marja Shaw, in Hawaii in 2002.

Court documents show Glenn offered a plea of no contest to a lesser charge of assault when the case came before the courts in Hawaii in 2003. Glenn was put on probation, and the charge was dismissed in 2004 when the probationary period ended. He denies the allegation and says he has no history of violence against women.

He had not declared the incident to the inquiry, or to the Government-backed White Ribbon anti-violence campaign for which he had applied to be an ambassador. Following the revelations he withdrew that application, but the matter prompted further defections from the inquiry and calls for him to stand aside.

Glenn, who part-owns the Warriors rugby league team with Eric Watson, has been a generous benefactor. His wealth is estimated at $900m, and in recent years he has made multimillion-dollar donations to causes including the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Fund, the Auckland University Business School and the National Aquatic Centre.

The Glenn Family Foundation Charitable Trust's accounts show it had income in the year to March 31, 2012, of $191,855, mostly donations from the Glenn Family Foundation. The trust made donations of $220,197 during the period, and after other expenses was left with a deficit of $51,921. It was left with $44,092 of equity once the deficit was met from reserves.

The trustees are Glenn, Malcolm Gordon, William Bax and Donna Grant.

- Sunday Star Times

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