Didier Drogba defends foundation after charity watchdog launches probe
A foundation set up by former Chelsea footballer Didier Drogba to help poor communities in the Ivory Coast is to be investigated by the charities watchdog.
The Charity Commission said it had "serious regulatory concerns about a number of compliance issues" raised following a Daily Mail investigation of the Didier Drogba Foundation.
The Mail reported that less than 1% of the £1.7 million raised by the foundation in the UK had gone to worthy causes in the west African country.
But the footballer described the allegations as "factually incorrect and libellous", said he was issuing legal proceedings and claimed the Mail was "jeopardising the lives of many thousands of African children".
In a statement, Drogba said: "The effect on these kids in need of healthcare and education is unimaginable.
"They have already caused an untold amount of damage by contacting all of my sponsors, my colleagues and many of my friends, who generously helped the foundation with donations, and put doubts in their mind about whether to continue to support us in the future.
"I come from a poor family and I had to work hard to get where I am today but this would mean nothing to me if I wasn't able to give back to my country, my continent and my community."
The 38-year-old striker, who is currently playing in Canada, said he wants to use the foundation to help children from his home country become the next generation of politicians, scientists, doctors, teachers and sports people, by providing them with education and healthcare.
Celebrity backers of the foundation include Princess Beatrice, David Beckham, Bono, Frank Lampard and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
The Daily Mail reported that the foundation's accounts allegedly showed that £14,115 has gone to needy causes, with more than £439,321 spent on fundraising events. The newspaper reported that the charity also currently holds more than £1 million in reserves.
Drogba said: "Despite their claims, there is no fraud, no corruption, no mismanagement, no lies, no impropriety."
He added: "The foundation was established in the Ivory Coast in 2007 and retains proof of every single payment made and received.
"We have all the documentation required by law both in the UK and the Ivory Coast.
"The foundation's work to date has been funded entirely by me through sponsorship earnings and donations in the amount of 3.7 million euros.
"Projects funded have included the building of the first Foundation Clinic, the mobile clinic which is in operation, school bags and books, a dialysis machine, Project against Child Labour, The Heart Schools kits, donations to the Children of Africa, and supporting orphanages.
"The £1.7 million from UK fundraising will be used to make the main clinic fully operational, including medical equipment, staff, medicine and running costs.
"Their attempts to destroy the work of the foundation will not deter me and will not stop me continuing the work we have begun."
David Holdsworth, chief operating officer at the Charity Commission, said in a statement: "We have serious regulatory concerns about a number of compliance issues raised and have contacted the Didier Drogba Foundation to seek an urgent response.
"In particular, the commission has concerns about the administration of the charity and the oversight provided by trustees, all of whom appear to live abroad, as well as allegations that the charity has provided misleading information to donors and the public.
"Further, the charity has raised and accumulated significant sums of money that have not yet been spent and further information is required over the plans to spend those funds.
"All these issues merit further investigation by the commission."
A spokesman for the Mail said: "The Daily Mail stands by every word of this important story which was the result of long and painstaking research by our award-winning investigative team and which has prompted an investigation by the Charity Commission.
"The documents provided to us by the Didier Drogba Foundation failed to address the very serious questions posed by our journalists.
"Despite numerous requests for a comment on the record, no substantive response was provided.
"Our article does not make allegations of fraud or corruption."