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The BBC said Blue Peter viewers will be dismayed about the allegations.


Source: BBC

Sunday, 27 February, 2000, 18:46 GMT

Police probe orphan cash claims

Romanian Orphans

Millions were moved when the plight of Romania's orphans emerged

Police in Romania are investigating claims that hundreds of thousands of pounds raised in Britain to help Romanian orphans has been misspent.

It was 10 years ago - in its most successful appeal to date - that the BBC children's programme Blue Peter raised £6.5m million pounds for the orphans.

Money was meant to fund 50 houses for orphans

The programme's viewers, like millions across the world, were moved when the desperate plight of thousands of children abandoned by their parents came to light in 1990.

The Blue Peter money was handed to a British charity, the Romanian Orphanage Trust, which passed some of it to its Romanian partners.

It was intended the money be spent building 50 Blue Peter houses, designed to provide an alternative to Romania's dehumanising institutions.

But only 12 houses were ever built. And in their refurbishment programme the trust admits that money was misspent, in fitting the wrong type of equipment and by unscrupulous sub-contractors.

'Financial fraud'

The most serious allegations arise from when the day-to-day handling of the charity's affairs was handed over to its Romanian partner.

An accountant who worked for them has told the BBC of misappropriation of funds by managers, and a driver has handed his allegations of financial fraud to Romanian police.

The British charity which monitored the Romanian operation denies the allegations, saying that the majority of their projects in Romania have been successful.

Don McCready, of the Romanian Orphanage Trust, said: "It has been difficult in Romania, I have to say that, but a lot of progress has been made."

The BBC said Blue Peter viewers will be dismayed about the allegations.

Blue Peter logo Appeal was Blue Peter's most successful to date

In a statement it said: "Blue Peter takes its responsibilities very seriously.

"Its procedures in 1990 involved a careful check of the charity, which had major public figures as patrons.

"Blue Peter viewers expect us to take as much care as possible with their donations, and we take every step we can to do so".

Lorry loads of toys were sent into Romania, along with millions of pounds from European countries and the US after the plight of the orphans emerged.

But a recent EU investigation found that in 10 years, conditions have changed little. There are still as many abandoned children as ever - many are malnourished and kept in desperate conditions.

Brussels has since begun an emergency feeding programme.

The allegations are the subject of a Newsnight investigation to be shown on Monday at 2230GMT on BBC Two.


2000 Feb 27