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
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015