Prove you gave away Chechen money, charities tell Hilary Swank

Actress under pressure to reveal what happened to payment for singing at warlord's birthday

Los Angeles

It was a play straight from the handbook of crisis PR management. When Hilary Swank was caught accepting a six-figure fee to appear at the televised birthday party of Chechen dictator, Ramzan Kadyrov, she publicly decided to eat a large portion of humble pie.

Amid outrage from human rights groups, the Oscar-winning actress issued a grovelling apology for September's paid trip to Grozny, in which she'd sauntered on stage in a cocktail dress, endorsed the brutal autocrat's "passion to make peace," and declared "Happy Birthday, Mr President!"

Swank then promised to donate her earnings from the trip to: "various charitable organisations." In a later appearance on Jay Leno's sofa, she explained that, although she'd been misled about the true nature of the event, she accepted full responsibility for being there. "Shame on me!" she said. "I should know about where I am going."

That was four months ago. Since then, the scandal has died down. But no charities have come forward to publicly acknowledge receipt of Swank's promised financial donation. And human rights groups are starting to wonder what, exactly, has become of it.

Now Chechnya's self-styled "government in exile" has jumped into the fray. Akhmed Zakaev, the country's former foreign minister, who was deposed by Mr Kadyrov and is currently living in London, has written to Swank demanding evidence that she really handed over the cash.

To see the full letter to Ms Swank from Akhmed Zakaev, click HERE

"I would like to ask you to provide me with official information about the charitable organisations which have benefited from this money as a result of your public undertaking," reads the letter, a copy of which has been passed to The Independent. "Many directors of humanitarian and human rights organisations dealing with Chechen issues have asked me about it."

Mr Zakaev's letter was sent on Monday, in his capacity as Prime Minister of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya, the country's unofficial separatist administration. It was directed to the office of Swank's partner John Campisi, an agent at CAA, the Hollywood talent agency which represents her and organised the controversial Grozny booking.

In an interview yesterday, Mr Zakaev said that he has yet to receive a response. He reminded Swank that abductions, tortures, rapes, and murders by Mr Kadryov's regime are a "daily occurrence," and said his victims are therefore anxious to see confirmation that her fee went to a good home.

"We really expect, when someone apologises, and promises publicly to do something, and says they will try to fix a big mistake, to be able to see that it actually happens," said Zakaev. "Hilary Swank said that she would transfer the money. But after four months, nobody knows if she has kept her word."

CAA yesterday declined to comment on Mr Zakayev's letter. Ms Swank's spokeswoman Michele Robertson, meanwhile insisted that her client had indeed fulfilled her promise to donate the fee to good causes. But she refused to detail how much money the actress has given away, or identify the recipients of her largesse.

"I can unequivocally confirm that, over the last four months, Hilary has been working directly and privately with various human rights organizations and other charities, giving both her time and financial resources," Robertson said in a statement.

"At the request of such organizations, and consistent with Hilary's longstanding practice of donating anonymously, she will not be publicly acknowledging her contributions and efforts."

Not everyone thinks that's good enough. "This is laughable," said Thor Halvorssen, the president of the Human Rights Foundation. "Hilary Swank publicly stated that she would give the money to charity; now she should publicly state which charities it went to. We agree with Prime Minister Zakayev: there needs to be transparency."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones