Cancer Charity Boss Who Bought Giant Dragon Statue Refunds

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The head of a UK cancer charity who allegedly spent $450,000 in public donations to build a giant Welsh dragon statue has been fined more than $130,000. The statue was never built and it is unclear where the money went. But the court was clear: they want a good part of it back. Read on to find out what happened.

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ITV News reported that the UK’s Charity Commission has taken legal action against Simon Wingett after he spent £410,000 (about $457,000) of his charity’s funds to create a 210ft tall dragon sculpture. Wingett hoped it would become a tourist attraction to rival works like Antony Gormley’s Angel statue. But the giant dragon was never built. The UK High Court ordered Wingett to repay £117,000 (about $130,000), which will be distributed to local charities supporting cancer patients.

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Wingett ran Frank Wingett Cancer Relief, which was started by his father in the 80s after he was diagnosed with throat cancer. He died in 1988. When the charity folded in 2018, he had not donated for seven years, ITV News reported.

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Instead, Wingett, who is also an art dealer, used donations for a bizarre pursuit. The Charity Commission said the funds had been ‘misused’ to build a ‘Welsh dragon statue as a tourist attraction’. He added that the statue “has no connection with furthering the aims of the charity and, to date, no statues have been constructed”. On September 12, Wingett was ordered to pay and banned from acting as a trustee of charities for ten years.

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According to the UK Time, the dragon project was supposed to raise money for local cancer charities through the sale of 5,000 stone slabs for around $330 each. Plans indicate that the statue would have been surrounded by 11 stone monoliths decorated with scenes from Welsh legends. The attraction would have included an amphitheater, cafe, gallery and shop. Wingett served as a director of five different companies associated with the dragon statue, which folded. The Daily Mail reported they include Dragon Sculpture Ltd., The Dragon Foundry Ltd. and The Dragon Experience Ltd. He is still a director of The Dragon Clothing Co. LLP and Great Welsh Dragon Ltd. Wingett has not commented on the judgment against him.

Charity Commission for England and Wales

“Charity trustees hold important positions of trust,” said Tracy Howarth of the Charity Commission. “We – and the public – expect trustees to ensure that financial decisions are made in the best interests of the charity and those it benefits. Mr Wingett’s misuse of funds was an abuse of the trust placed in him by the many charitable donors.” She added: “This decision will ensure that the charity proceeds collected now go to the members of the local community for whom they were intended.”

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