Ex-charity chief on trial for claiming false expenses – A former charity boss defrauded a children’s hospital fundraising appeal out of thousands of pounds by falsely submitting expenses claims to attend meetings with people including former First Minister Lord McConnell and Stagecoach tycoon Ann Gloag, a court has heard.
Elaine McGonigle, 50, who is a former director of the New Pyjamas Campaign charity set up to raise £15 million for a new Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, is alleged to have made the false claims for everything from meetings to food and mileage, Edinburgh Sheriff Court was told.
She is also alleged to have submitted claims for business flights on behalf of the charity, when she was in fact on holiday with her family.
Ms McGonigle, of Erroll, Perthshire, went on trial yesterday accused of 13 fraud charges involving the charity, run by the Sick Kids Friends Foundation. She denies them all.
It is alleged she defrauded the organisation of £1855 between September 22, 2008, and March 5, 2010. The charges include claims she submitted travel expenses of £436.38 for three business flights between Edinburgh and Heathrow Airport.
This allegedly occurred between July 24 and September 9, 2009, when the court heard, she travelled from Birmingham to Majorca with her husband and son on holiday.
Four return flights costing £548 were claimed for dates between August 28 and October 21, 2009, between Edinburgh and London, when it is claimed she and her husband flew from London to Bulgaria.
One of the first witnesses to give evidence in the case was a leading businessman who said he was “99.9 per cent sure” he had never met Ms McGonigle, despite her allegedly claiming to have attended a meeting with him.
Ms McGonigle is claimed to have submitted a claim for £53.20 to attend the meeting with Professor Nick Kuenssberg on April 21, 2009. But Professor Kuenssberg, 71, told the court yesterday: “I certainly did not know her then and do not know her now.”
The witness said he might have sent a cheque to the charity.
Defence advocate, Drew Mackenzie, asked Mr Kuenssberg if he was 100 per cent sure he had never met Ms McGonigle. “I am 99.9 per cent certain. I had two meetings that day.” Mr Mackenzie asked: “Can you say you never met with Elaine McGonigle or arranged a meeting with someone called Elaine McGonigle?”
Mr Kuenssberg replied: “I can exclude that absolutely.”
Another witness, solicitor George Harper, 58, told the trial how he knew the former fundraising director through her husband.
Ms McGonigle had claimed £29.60 from the charity for meeting him on November 9, 2009.
But Mr Harper, of Cupar, Fife, he had never had any contact with the New Pyjamas campaign and Elaine McGonigle had never met with him in connection with it.
The trial before Sheriff Douglas Allan continues.