Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is a NZME. News Service journalist based in Auckland.

Controversial cancer trust avoids prosecution

In January, the trust notified Internal Affairs that 38 per cent of its New Zealand-sourced funds were spent overseas.  Photo / Thinkstock
In January, the trust notified Internal Affairs that 38 per cent of its New Zealand-sourced funds were spent overseas. Photo / Thinkstock

A controversial cancer charity will not face prosecution after it voluntarily de-registered as a charity during a probe into its spending.

Internal Affairs launched an investigation into the Cancer Research Charitable Trust after it was revealed to have donated less than 5 per cent of the money it collected from New Zealanders.

But the investigation was closed after the trust voluntarily removed itself from the charities register during the course of the inquiry.

"There was insufficient evidence gathered during the investigation to warrant any officer disqualification or prosecution,'' an Internal Affairs spokesman said.

The Serious Fraud Office also looked into the charity's operations but referred the matter to Internal Affairs.

"We did not open an investigation and closed the evaluation,'' a spokeswoman said.

In March, the trust suspended fundraising and later stopped paying its staff after APNZ revealed only 4.2 per cent of the $1.1 million it received between July 2007 and June 2011 was donated to research projects.

Documents on the charities register website showed the rest of the funds went towards wages and administrative costs, with no money going towards cancer research in two of the four years for which records were available.

The trust was also revealed to have spent almost 40 per cent of its money in Australia, where its executive officer is based, despite claim that all funds raised in New Zealand were spent here.

Fundraising Institute chief executive James Austin said he was glad the trust had been de-registered.

"If that means they're no longer operating in New Zealand, then we'll have a more contented Christmas.''

The trust's executive officer, Gold Coast lawyer Troy Manhire, did not respond to requests for comment this week.

He previously defended the amount of money granted to research projects in New Zealand, saying the trust had shifted its focus towards awareness and prevention campaigns.

The money spent in Australia went towards New Zealand projects, such as the production of cancer prevention pamphlets, he said.

- APNZ

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