Fund-raising firm barred

Global Virtue, a Singapore firm which peddled vouchers and collected donations in the name of charity, may be less virtuous than its name suggests.

There are now question marks over whether the funds it amassed actually went to any charity.

The Commissioner of Charities (COC) yesterday barred the year-old firm, as well as several of its staff, from "conducting any fund-raising appeal for charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes".

The individuals barred are directors Muhammad Zuhairi Abdullah and Mohammad Rudi Muhammad Suffian, as well as adviser Jeffri Pawel. The prohibition order came into effect yesterday.

Upon investigating the company after receiving several complaints, the COC found that Global Virtue had "no proper control over the vouchers or sale proceeds and no proper accounting records were maintained, as required under the law".

This is despite the firm having claimed on its website to be giving part of its sales proceeds to non-profit and charitable organisations under its corporate-social-responsibility programme.

A MyPaper check found that the Orchard Towers firm had registered itself with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority as a travel agency.

Complaints surfaced as far back as December. Then, a post by "Sally" on citizen-journalism website Stomp detailed her being approached by a teenager in Tampines. The teen carried pictures of disabled people and requested donations for a charity named Kumpulan Orang Cacat Muslim Singapura.

"Sally" donated $15 and was handed a holiday voucher, which aroused her suspicion. Her calls to the charity - which is not a member of the National Council of Social Service - led her to Global Virtue, which she claimed denied being behind the fund raising.

Last year, five people were arrested for illegally soliciting funds in public. In the first half of this year, seven were arrested.

Anyone soliciting funds for charity in public requires a licence from either the police or the National Council of Social Service. Those without one can face a fine of up to $5,000, a jail term of up to two years or both.

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