A charity set up by ex-Chelsea striker Didier Drogba to help poor communities in the Ivory Coast may have “misled” donors, a watchdog has found.
But the Charities Commission said on Friday it had found “no evidence of fraud or corruption” by the Didier Drogba Foundation during a seven-month investigation.
The investigation began in April after the Daily Mail claimed less than 1% of the £1.7 million raised by the foundation in the UK had gone to worthy causes in the west African nation.
The watchdog discussed “serious concerns” with Drogba, 38, after analysing the charity’s financial records, which “did not support the level of charitable activity claimed to have been undertaken by the charity”.
The trustees said a separate organisation, La Fondation Didier Drogba, based in the striker’s home nation of the Ivory Coast, carried out “a number of” advertised activities.
They said that the English charity, set up in 2009, spent no funds on charitable activity and was instead accumulating the money in order to spend it on a hospital project, which had been delayed because of the political situation in the Ivory Coast.
The watchdog criticised the charity for not making this clear to donors and said the lack of distinction between the entities “may also have misled” donors “about the activities of the charity they were supporting”.
The report also criticised the foundation for “misleading” potential donors by recording three balls held in London as “charitable activities” rather than “fund-raising costs”.
The report concluded: “We have been able to satisfy our most serious concerns in relation to the charity by confirming that funds have not been misapplied and that all funds raised in the English charity’s name have been held by the English charity. We are also able to confirm that we found no evidence of fraud or corruption on behalf of the charity.
“We have issued the charity with an action plan to ensure that the outstanding concerns, particularly with regard to transparency to donors and the public, are addressed by the charity’s trustees.”
Drogba celebrated the commission’s findings and said he would be seeking damages and an apology.
He said: “The Charities Commission has today confirmed, after a seven-month investigation, that no funds have been misapplied by my foundation.
“They have confirmed that there has been no financial wrongdoing, no fraud and no corruption.”
Princess Beatrice, David Beckham, Bono, Frank Lampard and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich are among those to have backed the charity.