Charity employing Carrie Johnson paid its boss's wife £150k for design

Charity that employs Carrie Johnson paid its boss’s wife £150,000 for interior design services that were 10 per cent of all its donations, accounts show

  • The Aspinall Foundation paid £150k to its chairman’s wife for interior design
  • The figure it paid equates to ten per cent of all donations received last year
  • The well-known animal conservation charity employs Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie

The charity that employs Carrie Johnson paid more than £150,000 to its chairman’s wife for interior design services last year.

The figure paid by the Aspinall Foundation equates to ten per cent of all donations received from public and corporate donors in 2020.

The organisation and its sister charity the Howletts Wild Animal Trust are already being investigated by the Charity Commission over their spending and financial management.

The Daily Mail revealed in April that watchdogs had launched a probe into payments made to chairman Damian Aspinall and other family members. 

The Daily Mail revealed in April that watchdogs had launched a probe into payments made to chairman Damian Aspinall and other family members. Pictured: Victoria and Damian Aspinall

This included concerns that £12,500 had been handed to his wife Victoria for interior design services in 2019.

But updated accounts, filed last month, reveal that Mrs Aspinall’s fees had gone up 12-fold in 2020 to £150,158.

The foundation insisted her fees had been subject to ‘rigorous benchmarking’ to ensure it received ‘value for money’.

The alleged mismanagement happened before the arrival of the Prime Minister’s wife, who took on a senior role at the charity, heading up communications for a ‘medium to high five-figure salary’ in January this year.

Other trustees of the charity include Ben Goldsmith, the Tory donor, and his half-brother Robin Birley, whose father Mark founded the Mayfair nightclub Annabel’s.

The accounts revealed that the charity also has large reserves in cash, property and fine art. It paid £124,231 for accountancy undertaken by Alvarium, of which another trustee, Charles Filmer, is a director, in 2020 – double the £64,000 paid in 2019.

Last year the trustees also secured a coronavirus business interruption loan of £2million from the Government, interest free for the first year. This, in turn, was loaned to the Howletts Wild Animal Trust, the accounts say. Howletts Wild Animal Park was set up as a private zoo near Canterbury in 1957 by eccentric society naturalist and Lord Lucan’s gambling partner John Aspinall, father of Damian.

A second zoo was established at Port Lympne near Folkestone. Under John Aspinall, the zoos were known for their unorthodox style – including close personal relationships between staff and animals.

A number of keepers were killed by the animals they managed but the zoos were acclaimed for their conservation work.

The Aspinall Foundation and Howletts Wild Animal Trust were not available for comment yesterday but previously issued statements saying they ‘remain firmly committed to ethical and legal duties as a charitable body’.

They added: ‘Our trustees will continue to work openly and transparently with the Charity Commission to ensure best practice governance and compliance.’

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