Lion charity institution in crisis

News

Three months ago, the Lion charity Institution of Charities was plunged into a crisis after its founder was charged with corruption and fraud in connection with his personal business.

The charges were later dropped, but the institution’s reputation was badly damaged.

The scandal exposed a culture of money-making that was widely seen as a threat to the institution, which relies on donations and grants for its existence. 

The BBC has obtained documents revealing that a key figure in the institution is a former adviser to the governor-general. 

Former director-general Simon Koppelman, who was appointed in November 2017, resigned in September 2018 amid allegations that he used funds from his job to pay for private jets and expensive dinners. 

In a letter to the Australian Capital Territory’s chief electoral officer, Koppelman claimed he was unaware of the payments until they were revealed in a parliamentary inquiry into his role in the organisation.

“I have made clear that I never received any such payment, as I was not involved in the decision to accept donations from you,” Koppellman wrote in a letter obtained by the ABC. 

“I was also unaware that you received any donation from me, even though I had a role in selecting the funds that were to be used to provide services for the institution.”

Koppels family name has been linked to the Lion fund and his wife has been described as a close associate. 

When contacted by the FourFourtwo investigation, Kouthelman denied any wrongdoing, saying he had been “overwhelmed” by the inquiries and the scrutiny. 

“[I]t is a matter of public record that I was unaware that the governor of the institution was in receipt of any payment from the [Lion] Foundation, and was never aware that the funds were being used for personal expenses or gifts,” he said. 

However, he did not address questions about the donations he was using for personal use. 

One of Koppelaers three sons, former director-genialist Paul Koppella, is the man who is charged with fraud and money laundering and is a key player in the Lion foundation. 

Paul Koppalla was a key backer of the organisation when it was founded and a former chairman of the board of trustees, but he has been convicted of fraud in the past and has been sentenced to five years in prison. 

After his conviction, he was forced to leave his post as the Lion Foundation’s director-of-operations.

In 2018, Koutsaelas family name was linked to an alleged breach of trust in the $30 million (£16 million) lion foundation, which led to his resignation from the organisation and a further criminal investigation. 

Mr Koppello is also one of a number of former Lion foundation staff that have left the organisation over the years. 

A former Lion Foundation executive who was the director-executive for several years was also convicted of money laundering in the same scandal and served a five-year jail sentence. 

Koppela has also been accused of using his connections to secure funding for the Lion International Fund, which was set up by the foundation in 2007 to fight the spread of cholera in Africa.

The lion charity is based in Australia, and has its headquarters in New York City.

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