Re­vealed: the se­cret JNF cash trans­fers

The Jewish Chronicle - - Front Page - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

HUN­DREDS OF thou­sands of pounds were trans­ferred from JNF UK to an Is­raeli or­gan­i­sa­tion set up by its for­mer leaders without be­ing stated in the JNF ac­counts, it has emerged.

The ac­tiv­i­ties of Nes Eretz Is­rael came to a light dur­ing an un­suc­cess­ful High Court action re­cently brought by the JNF’s ex-chief ex­ec­u­tive, Si­mon Win­ters.

Nes Is­rael (as it was orig­i­nally known) came un­der the scru­tiny of the Char­ity Com­mis­sion and its Is­raeli equiv­a­lent last year and has been un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion this year by foren­sic ac­coun­tants called in by the JNF’s new lead­er­ship.

Its es­tab­lish­ment was also cited by JNF as one rea­son for the de­ci­sion to sus­pend Mr Win­ters, who re­signed from the char­ity this sum­mer.

A num­ber of con­cerns were raised by the foren­sic ac­coun­tants Smith & Wil­liamson in their pre­lim­i­nary re­port pro­duced this July and used in the trial.

They con­cluded there was ev­i­dence that a JNF car rally had been used to raise funds for Nes Is­rael; that do­na­tions from the JNF to Nes Is­rael had been used to buy a prop­erty cost­ing around $1 mil­lion, which ap­pears to be wholly owned by Nes Is­rael; and that a donor claimed gift aid on do­na­tions to Nes Is­rael al­though its char­i­ta­ble ac­tiv­i­ties may not qual­ify for it.

The ac­coun­tants say £75,000-£175,000 was do­nated an­nu­ally to Nes Is­rael be­tween 2004 and 2006, ris­ing ap­par­ently to £470,000 do­nated last year. In 2005, its en­tire in­come — and all its in­come the fol­low­ing year bar 5,000 shekels — re­sulted from do­na­tions from JNF UK.

Nes Is­rael was set up in 2004 by Gail Seal, the pres­i­dent of JNF UK un­til June, and Mr Win­ters, as an Is­raeli amu­tah (char­ity). Over the next few years, other JNF direc­tors and their rel­a­tives joined the board. Its stated aims were to al­le­vi­ate poverty, sup­port ed­u­ca­tion, strengthen Jewish val­ues and pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment.

But in 2004 and 2005, two-thirds of the funds went on trips to Is­rael, while most of the rest went on pub­lic rela- tions, aside from a large do­na­tion to the Is­rael Ten­nis Cen­tre, ac­cord­ing to Nes Is­rael’s ac­counts.

JNF UK’s ac­counts do not list Nes Is­rael among its sub­sidiaries or as­sisted char­i­ties and make no ex­press men­tion of the trans­fers from the UK to it.

In 2007, the Is­raeli char­ity reg­u­la­tor, the Amu­tah Reg­is­trar, be­gan ask­ing ques­tions fol­low­ing an anony­mous com­plaint. The reg­is­trar ruled that the trips and PR spending, since they were for the pur­poses of fundrais­ing, did not serve Nes Is­rael’s orig­i­nal aims.

In March 2007, the UK’s Char­ity Com­mis­sion con­cluded that it was “sat­is­fied” with the ex­pla­na­tion for char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions of £376,441 made to Nes Is­rael. It added: “It is im­por­tant, how­ever, to en­sure that where ex­pen­di­ture is for fundrais­ing, then it should be re­flected as such in the an­nual ac­counts.”

Ms Seal said this week: “Nes Is­rael is an Is­raeli char­ity, which was set up legally and prop­erly with le­gal ad­vice in Is­rael and UK. It has a num­ber of trustees and I am the chair­man. We car­ried out proper trans­fers to proper char­i­ties. Ob­vi­ously, when you set up a char­ity you have to take care of PR.”

She ex­plained that af­ter the split be­tween JNF and its for­mer Is­raeli as­so­ciate, Keren Kayemeth LeIs­rael, JNF “didn’t have a ve­hi­cle to for­ward on money, be­cause in the past money was sent to KKL and they sent it on. When there was a break­away, we were ad­vised by the lawyers we had to set up an­other ve­hi­cle”.

Asked whether the trustees of Nes Yis­rael in­tended to trans­fer con­trol of the or­gan­i­sa­tion to JNF’s cur­rent lead­er­ship, she said only: “Nes Is­rael is a sep­a­rate Is­raeli char­ity. There is not only JNF money there, but also pri­vate donors money.”

Mr Win­ters said that the ques­tion of why Nes Yis­rael was set up should be di­rected to its ad­vis­ers, in­clud­ing ac­coun­tants and lawyers. “I was not party to the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process and there­fore can­not seek to ex­plain it,” he said.

“I should em­pha­sise that I do not con-

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.