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Jemima charity on blacklist

London, Jan. 30: Britain's Charity Commission today 'named and shamed' the Jemima Khan Afghan Refugee Appeal because this organisation set up by Imran Khan's ex-wife has submitted no returns since it was set up in November 2001.

Although there is no suggestion yet that there has been a misuse of funds, President Pervez Musharraf's government could try to use this affair to damage the standing of Imran, who is emerging as a bold critic of the regime in Pakistan.

A spokeswoman for the commission explained that any organisation it registers has to submit accounts within 10 months of the end of its financial year if it raises more than '10,000.

In the case of Jemima, who is the 31-year-old daughter of the late billionaire, James Goldsmith, '250,000 were raised and given out but no accounts have ever been submitted to back this up.

Jemima is not the only offender. Of the 188,000 charities registered with the commission, one in three fails to submit accounts on time. For example, on the commission's list of defaulters, the charity named and shamed after Jemima's is the Jinnah Institute.

Jemima got picked on today by the Sunday Times 'because of her celebrity status', the spokeswoman acknowledged.

'This is the whole point of our campaign,' she said. 'Submitting accounts is not optional. Charities have a statutory duty to do so.'

In the ultimate analysis, the commission has powers to order a full inquiry, the spokeswoman added.

The commission is concerned that money donated to charities by a generous public should not disappear into the pockets of trustees who then vanish without trace. It has warned the public that a 'small number of scams' were reported as the British gave an astonishing '250 million to the tsunami victims.

The spokeswoman drew attention to the commission's ruling: 'A charity that has persistently failed to submit its accounts is unlikely to be a well managed, efficient organisation worthy of continued support. People and organisations should think carefully before providing it with funding or supporting it as volunteers.'

The problem for Jemima, who is a UK special representative of Unicef, is that now she has a different image.

Once she was seen as a serious, caring person but since her divorce from Imran, she now features mainly in the gossip pages as a ubiquitous party person alongside her new boyfriend, actor Hugh Grant.

Imran, too, behaved curiously on BBC television last week. He presented a brief programme on the plight of Muslims in Pakistan and West Asia generally and explained why they had lost faith with President George W. Bush but he presented his arguments from the luxury of a huge and lavishly furnished English drawing room. It was an odd choice of background.

'Rather grand,' quipped journalist Andrew Neil, who fronted the late night programme on politics.

In an effort to discredit Imran, the Pakistani government at one stage accused Jemima of smuggling antique tiles out of the country. But this proved to be a bogus charge.

Jemima told the Sunday Times that she was simply unaware that her charity had failed to submit accounts.

She said she had intended to close down the charity anyway, but she was concerned about the damage the 'default' listing might do to her plans to create an orphanage in Kabul for 800 children.

'It is so important to me that the charity is not discredited because of some minor administration error which I wasn't aware of,' she said. 'I have had no letter, not a single letter, saying the accounts have not been filed. What upsets me so much about this is that I have written to every single donor personally. These people have trusted me. Young people sent in money and so many pensioners sent in their pensions.'

According to Pollyanna Stokoe, the administrator of the Jemima Khan Afghan Refugee Appeal, the charity received '195,841 in its first year and distributed '112,175. It spent '15,636 on administration and had a '68,000 surplus. It raised more than '250,000 in the UK and Pakistan, though she believed all its funds had now been exhausted.

Stokoe claimed that her records showed she had sent the first year's accounts to the commission. However, the commission has no record of any such account being received.

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