Lord Bhatia accused of spending charity cash on 'lavish' lifestyle
Suspended peer allegedly spent £625,961 from EMF charity on chauffeur, family medical insurance
LORD BHATIA, the 81-year-old businessman and philanthropist, has been accused of using more than £600,000 from a charity to fund his "lavish lifestyle", the BBC's Newsnight programme reports.
The East Africa-born peer, who was suspended from the House of Lords in 2010 over an expenses scandal, allegedly used cash from the Ethnic Minority Foundation (EMF) charity to pay for a chauffeur, his family's private medical insurance and other inappropriate expenses, the programme says. Lord Bhatia co-founded the charity, which invests in "good causes in the UK and India", in 1999.
It is also alleged that Bhatia claimed mileage expenses from EMF which he had already claimed through the parliamentary expenses system. The Daily Telegraph says that between 2009 and 2010 he allegedly submitted double claims for mileage on 138 times at a cost of £1,500 to the taxpayer.
Bhatia was appointed to the House of Lords in 2001 as one of the so-called 'people's peers'. The initiative was designed to bring "fresh talent" to the upper House by inviting applications from members of the public, the Open Politics website says.
- The allegations raised by Newsnight amount to a total of £625,961. They include claims:
- He awarded himself a contract of employment without ratification from EMF's board.
- His personal chauffeur was paid more than £40,000 a year, which was charged to the charity.
- That EMF alleges Lord Bhatia owes it £94,094 for failing to make agreed contributions to rental it was paying for premises owned by the peer
- He put a relative and long-term acquaintance on the charity payroll - to the tune of £75,264 - when they were private personal assistants working mainly for him
- He charged to the charity £22,746 for private medical insurance for three members of his family
- The peer made other inappropriate expenses claims, such as for nearly £800 of duty free and almost £5,000 of House of Lords refreshments. Some expense forms were authorised by Lord Bhatia for himself, contrary to charity policy, the charity says
Newsnight says it invited Bhatia to comment on the allegations but he declined because of "what his lawyers said were unresolved claims made by the peer against EMF in the High Court and in an employment tribunal". ·