Salvation Army cash `stolen to pay debts'

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The Independent Online
A senior Salvation Army official authorised a transaction by which hundreds of thousands of pounds of the charity's money were stolen from its accounts, a court heard yesterday.

Southwark Crown Court was told that while there was "certainly not enough" evidence to justify charging Major Grenville Burn, head of the organisation's public relations department in London, his involvement had left "question marks over his conduct".

"He certainly seems to have been extremely foolish and possibly worse," claimed Jeremy Roberts QC, prosecuting.

The money, just part of what the Salvation Army lost after being hoodwinked into ploughing pounds 6.4 million into a "poppycock" investment scheme, was used to pay off "enormous" personal debts run up by its trusted financial adviser, Stuart Ford.

Mr Roberts was opening the case against 45-year-old Ford, of Littleshaw Croft, Wythall, Hereford & Worcester, who denies 23 sample counts of theft between August and December 1992.

He told the court the failed businessman stole a total of pounds 1.2m belonging to the charity to stave off financial disaster. However, after paying off his many creditors, he still had enough left over to buy a new house, a couple of cars and haul his bank account well into the black.

Mr Roberts told the jury the tale they would hear during the three-week trial involved "naivete", a "rather murky" Egyptian-born banker, secret dealings with an overseas bank and "cast-iron" promises of massive profits from standby letters of credit that probably never had a market anyway".