Mountaineer used charity's money to fund lavish lifestyle


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The Independent US

Greg Mortenson, the mountaineer, philanthropist and author of the bestselling Three Cups of Tea has been ordered to repay $1m (£630,000) to the charity he founded after misusing its funds to pay for personal holidays and buy copies of his own books.

An investigation into the finances of his non-profit Central Asia Institute (CAI), which builds schools in war-torn regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, found large portions of its day-to-day expenditure have instead been devoted to supporting Mortenson's globe-trotting lifestyle.

The attorney-general of Montana, where the CAI is registered, accused Mortenson of serious "financial transgressions" in the way he ran his expense account with the supposedly non-profit aid organisation.

He used donations to buy designer clothes, pay for iTunes downloads, settle luxury hotel bills, and even to finance extravagant family holidays, the attorney general's report says.

The CAI also spent $4m buying copies of Mortenson's book, which were then donated to public institutions, generating large royalty payments for Mortenson.

The author, who was once nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, has repaid half of the money and resigned from the charity's board, but remains a paid employee. Executive director Anne Beyersdorfer said he was still "the heart and soul" of CAI.