Cancer Charity Boss Who Spent $400K of Donations on Giant Dragon Statue Has Been Ordered to Pay Back $100K
Court rules it's payback time.
The head of a UK cancer charity who reportedly spent $450,000 of public donations on building a giant Welsh dragon statue has been fined more than $130,000. The statue was never built, and it's unclear where the money went. But the court was clear: They want a good chunk of it back. Read on to find out what happened.
ITV News reported that the UK's Charity Commission brought legal action against Simon Wingett after he spent £410,000 (about $457,000) of his charity's funds to create a 210-foot-tall sculpture of a dragon. Wingett hoped it would become a tourist attraction to rival works like Antony Gormley's Angel statue. But the giant dragon was never built. The UK's High Court of Justice ordered Wingett to pay back £117,000 (about $130,000), which will be distributed to local charities supporting cancer patients.
Wingett ran Frank Wingett Cancer Relief, which was established by his father in the '80s after he was diagnosed with throat cancer. He died in 1988. When the charity folded in 2018, it hadn't made a donation in seven years, ITV News reported.
Instead, Wingett, who is also an art dealer, used donations for a bizarre pursuit. The Charity Commission said the funds were "misused" toward building a "Welsh dragon statue as a tourist attraction." It added the statue "has no connection to advancing the charity's aims and, to date, no statue has been built." On Sept. 12, Wingett was ordered to pay up, and he's been banned from acting as a charity trustee for ten years.
According to the UK Times, the dragon project was supposed to raise money for local cancer charities through the sale of 5,000 stone plaques for about $330 each. Plans indicate the statue would have been surrounded by 11 stone monoliths decorated with scenes from Welsh legends. The attraction would have included an amphitheater, café, gallery, and shop. Wingett has been the director of five different companies associated with the dragon statue, which have folded. The Daily Mail reported they include Dragon Sculpture Ltd., The Dragon Foundry Ltd., and The Dragon Experience Ltd. He is still the director of The Dragon Clothing Co. LLP, and Great Welsh Dragon Ltd. Wingett has not commented on the judgment against him.
"Charity trustees hold important positions of trust," said Tracy Howarth of the Charity Commission. "We—and the public—expect trustees to ensure financial decisions are taken in the best interests of the charity and those it serves to benefit. Mr Wingett's significant misuse of funds was an abuse of the trust placed in him by the many donors to the charity." She added: "This ruling will ensure the charitable proceeds raised are now directed to the benefit of those in the local community they were intended for."