BY JAMES TWOMEY
An RSPCA branch is being investigated by police after suspected fraud by two men which could involve hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The South East London branch of the charity, which is based in West Norwood, is in the process of being audited by the Met and the Charity Commission.
Former trustee Ivan House told The Guardian that the fraud could have involved as much as £450,000.
An audit of the branch in June uncovered the suspected fraud and found that almost £16,000 had been spent on Premier Inn hotels.
The two men that were arrested were branch trustees and recently all seven trustees have either left or been replaced.
An RSPCA spokeswoman said: “After concerns were raised about the running of the London South East branch, which is a separately registered charity from the national RSPCA, a financial review is taking place.
“The issue has been referred to the police and we are not in a position to comment further but we would like to reassure our supporters that the branch continues to operate as usual.”
A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: “We are aware of allegations of fraud relating to the South East London branch of the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“A serious incident was reported to the Commission in line with our guidance on reporting serious incidents.
“We opened a regulatory compliance case to assess the charity’s response to this serious incident.
“We expect the trustees to submit the findings of their internal investigation once complete, which we will review, as well as any necessary policies and procedures, including around financial controls, to ensure the charity has acted appropriately.”
According to the Charity Commission website, the branch’s accounts for the financial year ending 31 December 2017 were 160 days overdue.
It showed that income in each of the previous four years was between £193,000 and £227,000.
Police received an allegation of fraud on 3 September 2018 relating to a charity based in Norwood, south-east London.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan police said: “On 12 September two men – aged 44 and 55 – were arrested on suspicion of fraud.
Both have been released under investigation. “Enquiries continue by officers from the South Area Command Unit.”