Mining giant’s charity donations ‘could have been misappropriated’

An investigation into charitable donations made by mining giant Ferrexpo that were allegedly misappropriated has ended, with the company saying no one from the business was to blame.

An Independent Review Committee (IRC) said the donations to Ukrainian charity Blooming Land “could have been misappropriated” but could not be agreed conclusively.

It added that the board of the iron-ore mining firm would consider whether further investigations could take place.

The forensic review by accountancy firm BDO involved interviews with staff and directors at Ferrexpo and combing through documents and correspondence with the charity.

It said: “Whilst a significant amount of work has been undertaken by the IRC and its advisers, it has not been possible to explain a number of discrepancies outlined in the 2018 Annual Report relating to the charity and its use of funds donated by Ferrexpo.

“As a result, the IRC has been unable to conclude as to the ultimate use of all of the funds by the charity, a third party. Indications therefore remain that some of the funds could have been misappropriated. The board is considering further steps in this regard.”

The report added that “the IRC is satisfied that none of Ferrexpo’s directors, management or employees have had any involvement in any possible misappropriation of funds”.

“Various tax and other investigations” in Ukraine remain ongoing, it added.

In April, the company’s auditor, Deloitte, resigned after the company initially decided against holding an investigation into the scandal, which saw large donations from Ferrexpo allegedly misappropriated.

The chief financial officer also sold shares worth more than £400,000 the day before the mining company revealed that its auditor had resigned.

Deloitte warned Ferrexpo in October and November last year that it expected an independent forensic review into the matter if Blooming Land did not provide requested evidence about the funds.

Bosses initially agreed on an investigation, but then voted in January not to start the inquiry, opting to write to Blooming Land for further clarification.

A review only began after Deloitte threatened to resign a third time in January this year, leading to law firm Herbert Smith Freehills and BDO being appointed to investigate.

On Friday, the company confirmed it had severed all links with Blooming Land, and vowed to “ensure adherence to the highest standards of diligence, oversight, governance and reporting” on any future donations to Ukrainian charities.