Police to investigate Newmark scandal

THE police are in receipt of evidence from a year-long investigation into historic financial irregularities allegedly committed by Jeremy Newmark, the former chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council.

Mr Newmark stood down from his role in 2013 when he cited “reasons of ill-health”.

Thousands of pounds were said to have been improperly spent by him, including on holidays, car leases and withdrawals of funds, all of which he has denied.

A three-person panel engaged a firm of independent forensic accountants to assist with the investigation.

The report was delivered to the JLC and the Charity Commission on January 31.

The findings, published on Wednesday, suggest that £111,734 cannot be accounted for, while an additional £266,189 merits further investigation.

It was reported last year how, in order to avoid a scandal, the JLC’s trustees decided to keep Mr Newmark’s behaviour secret and not inform the police.

And, although the independent panel does not impugn the motives of the trustees, it criticises their failure to exercise basic oversight and their decision to cover up the scandal rather than fully investigate and report it.

It states that there was “little evidence of acceptable levels of financial control” and that Mr Newmark “had the facility to withdraw round cash sums from the bank and make payments into his personal bank account without supporting documentation”.

JLC chairman Jonathan Goldstein said that the 2013 trustees were “let down by Jeremy Newmark”.

He added that “we have now referred the matters raised relating to potentially questionable expenditure to the police.

“The trustees have also determined to put our audit out to tender and are taking legal advice on other civil remedies that might be available to it.

“The panel has concluded that there were deficiencies in the charity’s processes in 2012 and 2013.

“We have worked tirelessly to unite the community, to represent its concerns, and promote collaboration in order to provide solutions to the long term strategic challenges we face.

“Never has there been a greater need for this charity and the work it does.

“We are resolutely committed to continue serving our community and to engage with the Charity Commission so we always withstand the strongest light of scrutiny.”

When asked by the inquiry to explain such payments, Mr Newmark said they were reimbursements, since at times he had to “fund the JLC out of his private resources due to a shortage of funds” in the organisation’s bank account.

It also states that neither the-then treasurer Nigel Layton nor the trustees had “exercised proper control” of Mr Newmark’s use of the charity’s funds.

Mr Layton had authorised payments without proper checks on a JLC credit card and Mr Newmark’s Amex account, and he did not act on concerns over lack of controls highlighted by auditors in letters in 2010 and 2012.

“Had Nigel Layton carried out his duties as treasurer with more diligence than he appears to have done, it seems to the [inquiry] panel he would have recommended a much clearer and more effective oversight of Jeremy Newmark’s activities by the trustee body,” the report reads.

When Mr Layton was made aware in September, 2013, of allegations by a whistleblower about Mr Newmark’s expenditure, the report says he dismissed the concerns, putting them down to a “naïve employee”.

The report also says that the JLC’s trustees had been driven by an “entirely reasonable desire” to make good the losses identified in 2013 and could also be seen to have been “motivated by a desire to protect the reputation of the charity so far as possible”.

However, the “proper course of action” for the trustees at the time of the allegations would have been to launch “a full internal inquiry” into Mr Newmark’s years as chief executive.

Mr Newmark said that he had been forced to re-write his statement of response on the night before publication, because the JLC deemed parts of it “defamatory” and was likely to lead to the identification of the whistleblower who had triggered the whole chain of inquiry.

A JLC spokesman told the Jewish Telegraph that they wished to thank the whistleblower.

“They should be praised and protected as it takes a particular type of bravery, especially in a small charity, to expose wrongdoing,” he said.

“What we have got is a report which effectively states that the trustees acted in the best interests of the charity and believed that what they did was in good faith.

“It is a thorough piece of work and it gives some important lessons that charities can learn moving forward.

“We want to be open and transparent if we are going to continue to serve the Jewish community and we have to withstand the strongest scrutiny.”

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