Fraud Scare on Lottery Charities; the Public Must Be Able to Have Confidence in the Big Lottery Fund, Whether It Is in Choosing Winners or Allocating Money to Causes Don Foster

Article excerpt

Byline: Tim Moynihan

The National Lottery was at the centre of a major fraud scare last night after nine men were arrested over an alleged scam to defraud it and various charities of more than a million pounds.

Eight were released on bail to return to police, two in January and six in February. One was being questioned by the immigration service.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said the men, arrested on Saturday, were held in connection with an investigation into various allegations of defrauding lottery grants.

Charity sources said that many of the allegedly fraudulent applications seemed to originate from the West African community in the UK.

The Big Lottery Fund, which distributes half the money for good causes raised by the game - between pounds 600 million and pounds 700 million a year - said it had alerted police to the possible misuse of funds awarded through grants by the Community Fund.

The Community Fund and the New Opportunities Fund merged in June to form the Big Lottery Fund.

The loss to National Lottery good causes may top pounds 1 million, sources said.

It is feared that well known charities such as Children In Need, Comic Relief and Barnardo's may also have been hit.

A BBC spokeswoman said: 'We are investigating whether such applications had been made to Children In Need.'

Charity regulator the Charity Commission also launched an investigation.

A spokeswoman said it had so far frozen around 30 bank accounts, all thought to be in England and Wales, 'in order to protect charitable funds'. …