"Three Cups of Tea" author to pay $1 million to U.S. charity

Thu Apr 5, 2012 8:25pm EDT
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By Lori Grannis

MISSOULA, Montana (Reuters) - "Three Cups of Tea" author Greg Mortenson has agreed to pay $1 million to compensate his Montana-based charity for using the non-profit to promote and buy copies of his books, a report from the state attorney general said on Thursday.

The settlement between Mortenson, leaders of the Central Asia Institute charity he founded and Montana officials allows the organization to continue providing education to impoverished communities in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But it marks a setback for an author and philanthropist once widely celebrated for his work.

The office of Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock said its investigation, launched in April 2011 in the wake of a "60 Minutes" report that suggested Mortenson fabricated parts of his book "Three Cups of Tea" and reaped benefits from the charity.

Bullock's office found the Central Asia Institute had spent nearly $4 million since 2006 to buy copies of his books "Three Cups of Tea" and "Stones Into Schools."

The purchases generated royalties for Mortenson, and although he had agreed to provide a contribution to the Central Asia Institute equal to the amount of royalty payments he received from book purchases, he had not done so as of April 2011, the attorney general report found.

He also collected money from CAI for travel expenses related to his lucrative speaking engagements, and the charity spent about $4.9 million to promote the two books, the report said.

CAI's mission is to advance literacy and education in Central Asia, especially for girls, and it has funded the construction and operation of schools in the region.   Continued...

Greg Mortenson poses with Sitara "Star" schoolchildren in Wakhan, northeastern Afghanistan in this undated handout photograph released to Reuters March 11, 2009. REUTERS/Central Asia Institute/Handout