DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Ivorian soccer star Didier Drogba has threatened legal action over accusations that his charity set up to help children in Africa had spent less than one percent of money raised on worthwhile projects.
The Daily Mail, Britain’s second biggest selling newspaper, said on its website that 14,000 pounds out of 1.7 million pounds ($2.4 million) donated to the Didier Drogba Foundation had been used to benefit children in Ivory Coast.
Britain’s Charity Commission, a state-backed watchdog, said it was investigating the charity set up in Britain in 2009 by the former Chelsea striker, citing “serious regulatory concerns”.
Drogba, who now plays for Canadian Major League Soccer club Montreal Impact, denied the allegations in a strongly worded statement in which he said he would issue legal proceedings against the newspaper for “incorrect and libelous” information.
He could not be reached for further comment.
“Despite their claims, there is no fraud, no corruption, no mismanagement, no lies, no impropriety,” Drogba said in a statement on Twitter and Instagram where he has 1.1 million and 3 million followers respectively.
A spokesman for the Daily Mail said the newspaper stood by its story published on Thursday and the failure of the Didier Drogba Foundation to address questions posed by its journalists.
“Despite numerous requests for a comment on the record, no substantive response was provided,” the spokesman said in a statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Friday.
“Our article does not make allegations of fraud or corruption.”
Drogba, 38, founded the charity in Ivory Coast in West Africa in 2007 and its British arm was launched two years later.
According to the World Bank, 46 percent of the 20 million population of Ivory Coast live in poverty, and four out of every 10 children of primary school age are not in education.
The Daily Mail said the charity had spent almost half a million pounds since 2009 on fundraising parties attended by celebrities including footballers Pele and David Beckham and Swiss tennis star Roger Federer.
The newspaper also said the charity had more than one million pounds in its accounts but had built only one of five healthcare clinics it claimed to be investing in.
The Charity Commission said it had opened a case to assess concerns about the administration of the charity, the role of trustees based abroad, and allegations that the foundation had provided misleading information to donors and the public.
“Further, the charity has raised and accumulated significant sums of money that have not yet been spent and further information is required over the plans to spend those funds,” chief operating officer David Holdsworth said in a statement.
Drogba, who was voted by Chelsea fans as the club’s greatest ever player and has twice been named African Player of the Year, has also been a United Nations goodwill ambassador since 2007.
He told the BBC from Montreal, Canada, that all charity projects so far had been funded by his own sponsorship deals, rather than money from British fundraisers.
“I‘m responsible for this money; I‘m not going to spend it just to spend it,” he said.
The Daily Mail was unavailable for further comment.
($1 = 0.7072 pounds)
Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, editing by Tim Pearce and Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org