Accounts frozen at charity backed by One Direction

Believe in Magic, also reportedly supported by Olly Murs, Michael Bublé and Little Mix, investigated after multiple complaints of mismanagement

A family-run charity backed with millions of pounds by the band One Direction has had its accounts frozen during an investigation into allegations of misconduct.

Believe in Magic, co-founded by a mother and daughter after the daughter had been diagnosed with a brain tumour, is being investigated by the Charity Commission following “multiple complaints” and “indications of misconduct or mismanagement”.

One Direction’s stars have been ambassadors to the charity, and Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne attended its fundraising Cinderella Ball in August 2015. It also held a party at 10 Downing Street when David Cameron was prime minister.

The organisation was set up in 2012 to help children suffering from serious or terminal illness by Jean Bhari, and her daughter Meg. At the time, Meg had been diagnosed with a brain tumour, and is said to have undergone 23 brain operations.

The organisation has reportedly received support from celebrities including Jessie J, Olly Murs, Pixie Lott, Little Mix, Professor Green, Fearne Cotton and Michael Bublé.

But according to the commission, it has failed to file its annual accounts, which were due over seven months ago. In its first year, the charity received donations of £73,635 and a further £3,158 in gift aid. In 2013, the charity received donations worth £48,007 and in 2014, it received £32,783.

It also reportedly received a donation of £2m from One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson, as well as support from other members of the band at the Cinderella Ball, which was held at the Natural History Museum in London. No accounts have been filed for that year.

A spokesman for the Charity Commission said: “The commission engaged with the charity’s trustees in August 2016 about a number of regulatory concerns identified from multiple complaints about the charity and from the commission’s own scrutiny of the charity.”

The regulator will now assess whether conflicts of interests “have been adequately avoided or managed”.

The Guardian was unable to reach the charity or its founders for comment. The charity’s website has been taken down, and its telephone line has been disconnected.

Shortly after the charity was set up in 2012, an appeal was launched for Meg to receive treatment in the US. On 18 February 2013, a further post said she was receiving unspecified treatment at the Boston children’s hospital, and that they had received most of their target.

A second appeal was launched on social media in 2015, called Help Save Megan. It was said that Megan needed “state of the art” proton beam therapy in the US that would cost £120,000. The Sun said that doctors had discovered another tumour in her brain. It was said she had just two weeks to raise the money. The mother of One Direction star Harry Styles, Anne Cox, tweeted her support for the fund.

In 2016, a third appeal was set up, this time called Meg’s Turn for Magic. This again raised money for Megan to go for treatment in the US. She was said to be very ill, travelling on the Queen Mary 2 across the Atlantic.

She and her mother travelled by sea because “the pressure of the tumour in her brain makes flying challenging”, according to a post by One Direction calling for more funds. Several months later she returned to the UK in the same way.

According to a Justgiving fundraising page, the family aimed to raise a further £21,000 to mark her 21st birthday last year. The charity received over £22,000.

The charity also gave gifts to children in hospitals and organised “dream” trips for cancer sufferers.

Its 2014 accounts said: “We have held parties for over 200 children and became the first charity to be invited to take 18 little princesses to Buckingham Palace to decorate her Majesty the Queen’s Christmas tree, have a tea party and meet Princess Eugenie and Father Christmas.

“We also had a Christmas party with the prime minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, as well as a huge Christmas party with real reindeer in Richmond Park.”


Holly Watt and Sarah Boseley

The GuardianTramp

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