Regulator closes charity run by three brothers following business rates probe

The Charity Commission has wound up a charity set up to support the elderly after it emerged one of the three brothers that ran it as trustees had attempted to avoid paying £59,000 in business rates.

The charity, Achiezer, which was run by three brothers Sidney, David and Michael Chontow, has been wound up after it emerged that Sidney Chontow had attempted to avoid paying a £59,000 business rates bill to Bury Metropolitan Borough Council.

Sidney was found to be letting out property to the charity through his business Potential Investment Portfolio, which he was a partner.

Property used for charitable purposes are exempt from paying business rates, but it emerged that “the property was not used solely for charitable purposes and therefore was not entitled to an exemption”, according to the regulator.

The charity then became liable for business rates.

The Commission also found that the charity had made payments totalling £129,800 to Dasim Partners, a property development company run by Sidney and David Chontow, who has since passed away. “The basis of these payments was unclear,” found the regulator.

Michael Chontow also passed away, prior to the inquiry opening. Meanwhile, Sidney Chontow has been banned from sitting on charities' boards.

The regulator’s investigation found serious misconduct and/or mismanagement in the running of the charity due to poor financial management and governance.

The charity’s trustees were not independent, and they had failed to manage conflicts of interest. They also “did not distinguish between the charity and other entities with which they were connected”.

Sidney Chontow has since paid the outstanding business rates to Bury Council and Achiezer, which had been included in a class action nine years ago for charities that failed to file their accounts at least twice in five years, was wound up in April this year.

The charity’s remaining funds, amounting to more than £400,000 have been redistributed to similar charities.

“Trustees should manage their charities effectively and responsibly, including ensuring financial decisions are taken in the best interests of the charity,” said Charity Commission head of investigations Amy Spiller.

“The Chontows abused their position as trustees, to derive personal gain for themselves and their businesses to the detriment of the charity.

“It is right that they were removed as trustees, and that this charity has ceased to operate.”

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