Rainham Aids charity founder spared jail after £104,000 scam

Aids charity founder Eyob Sellassie, 45

Aids charity founder Eyob Sellassie, 45 - Credit: CENTRAL NEWS

An Aids charity founder who blamed Bob Geldof’s Band Aid campaign for corruption in Africa while masterminding a £100,000 scam has been spared jail.

Eyob Ghebre Sellassie, of Lower Mardyke Avenue, Rainham, submitted two Gift Aid declarations for 1,300 fictitious donations to African Aids Action, totalling £416,074.

The false claims resulted in a repayment of £104,000 he wasn’t entitled to from the government’s tax incentive charity scheme.

Appearing at Kingston Crown Court on Friday, the 45-year-old was sentenced to 15 months in prison suspended for two years on two counts of fraud by false representation.

He was also disqualified from being a company director for five years.

Peter Milroy, assistant director of criminal investigation at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), said: “This was a despicable crime that saw Sellassie use the identities of innocent taxpayers to steal from the nation’s finances, while pretending to support vulnerable people overseas with serious health issues.

“He thought he could abuse the Gift Aid system to greatly enhance his lifestyle without getting caught. He was wrong and will now pay the price for his criminal actions.”

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Sellassie purchased the names and addresses of 5,000 people to fabricate donations. He went on to use 1,300 of those names and addresses to support his illegal Gift Aid tax relief claims. Evidence gathered by HMRC confirmed the donations had not been made.

African Aids Action Limited’s stated aim was the “relief of people suffering from HIV, particularly those from Africa and the Caribbean, by providing a confidential mother tongue counselling and advice service and by improving access to HIV and AIDS treatment in Africa.”

The charity was de-registered by the Charity Commission and removed as a charitable organisation three days after Sellassie was arrested by HMRC in September 2013.

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Aids charity founder facing jail after being convicted of fraud