Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Iraqi LGBT's Accountant in UK:

Report Coming Next Week

In response to my post on Monday regarding accountability issues with Ali Hili and his group Iraqi LGBT, I was contacted by an American gay activist, Jonathan Barnett.

He made me aware of his concerns with this group from the spring, and shared with me an email he received from Josh Botham, the UK-based accountant for Iraqi LGBT. Botham is a partner at the Deco Partnership tax firm, and this is what he said back in March:
Subject: FW: donation
Date: Tue, 31 Mar 2009 09:09:07 +0100

Dear Jonathan Barnett,

Thank you for contacting Iraqi LGBT. Our organisation is a Non Government Organisation, we are not a charity as yet as our constitution does not allow for this. We do work with international organisations like HIVOS in the Netherlands who financially support our cause. The strategic management of Iraqi LGBT is based in the UK and the operational management is based locally, both in Iraq and its neighbouring countries. The day to day management consists of a solicitor, a chartered accountant [Josh Botham] and a member of the Iraqi LGBT board. We meet up around three times per month but we are in regular telephone contact. On top of this is a board consisting of only Iraqi nationals who meet twice per month in London. They decide upon the strategies of our organisation.

The organisation mainly consists of volunteers and only a few do charge a small fee for the work they undertake. I hope you understand that we cannot divulge too much information about our organisation, but given the views the Iraqi government has towards, Lesbians, Gays, Bi Sexuals and Trans Genders, we only disclose information on a need to know basis.

I deal with the funding in general, speaking at overseas discussion panels etc. It goes without saying that our solicitor deals with all the legal issues, Human Rights, defending people who are in danger of being deported etc. We also have enlisted the help of the legal department of an American University who can help us to speed up the process of relocating refugees from the neighbouring countries to a Western country [typically, America, Sweden, UK or Holland]

All though we are not a charity as yet, we do follow the UK guidelines for registered charities. In your case if you donate for a specific cause, then I will ensure that this money is used for that purpose only. We do produce monthly reports of how the money has been spend and provided that your donation is of a sufficient size we have no objection to keep you informed.

If you wish to speak to a member of our organisation in person, then please contact me on +44 1323 638833 or on 07745 742457 and I am happy to answer any additional questions you may have.

Best wishes.
Josh Botham
Interesting that he claims Iraqi LGBT produces monthly reports, but information from the reports will only be shared if one makes a large donation. Why not just provide the info to the gay public?

Earlier today, Botham replied to a message I sent him yesterday, asking questions about when the group he keeps the books for would release a report about its accounts. This was his reply:

Sent: Tue, Jul 7, 2009 11:42 pm
Subject: RE: Iraqi LGBT and fiscal accountability request to Josh Botham

Hi Michael,

Thank you for your email. I am the accountant for Iraqi LGBT since October 2008. I took over from my predecessor who unfortunately was murdered whilst visiting Iraq. I am in the middle of compiling an annual report for the activities of the group for the period ending 31 May 2009. At present the group operates as a non profit making organisation and I am in the process of registering the group as a charity in the UK. As the organisation does not distribute any profits to its members but allocates it to the good causes it is not liable to any taxes and therefore it does not have to file accounts with the authorities.

As soon as the organisation is registered as a charity [which should be in place by the end of this month] it will be subject to review by the Charities Commissioner in the United Kingdom, it will have to file annual accounts both with the Charities Commissioner and the Companies House.

I intend to complete the annual accounts for the period ending 31 May 2009 by the end of next week and I am sure that you will have access to a copy of this.

Please bear with me till then.

Josh Botham
Botham's promise to produce some records in the very near future strongly echoes the unkept promise Ali Hili made to me in mid-June.

I shared Botham's note with a few activist colleagues in London, and one friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, sent questions to me that he hoped would be forwarded to Botham.

The questions were emailed to Botham and a response was again requested. Here are the questions:
Following on from that email Josh sent you, you might want to follow up with a few probing questions.

(1) On what to they base their current claim that they are tax-exempt on the basis that their group "does not distribute any profits to its members but allocates it to the good causes". Since when are "good causes" a legal concept understood by Inland Revenue? And how would they prove to Inland Revenue that the money had indeed gone to "a good cause" if they can't even prove it to you and me?

(2) If they currently believe they are tax-exempt on the above basis, why are they even bothering to seek charitable status?

(3a) If they will have to lodge their accounts with "Company's House", it means they're planning to become a Limited Company (which of course can be a charitable concern), but who will the directors be? Ali Hili is not even his real name, so how will Ali be a director (given that the identity of company directors is public domain information?) Who will the other directors be? Why is Josh neglecting to mention these not minor details?

(3b) If they have already started the ball rolling with the Charities Commission to register as a Charitable Company (they must have if they will be registered by the end of the month because it is not a fast process) where are their required "Articles of Association" and "Charitable Aims & Objectives". These documents have to be submitted with any application, and typically a lawyer would have helped draw them up. Who performed this service? Was it Josh?

(4) If it is taking so long to prepare "the books", what is a ballpark figure of income? It must be very high and there must be loads of transactions or else it would only take an evening or two to collate a few bank statements and printouts from PayPal. Not months. Surely?

(5) How do they manage to send tens of thousands of Pounds out of the UK and to Iraq seemingly without paperwork?
Lots of answers and reports are being requested from Iraqi LGBT and their UK accountant, and I hope to soon have some detailed info to share.

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