BY NIGEL BEAN
That video tweet continues to haunt Chris Packham. If you recall he made it just before Christmas and it was supposed to answer allegations made against him surrounding Tiger-Gate, as exposed by Country Squire Magazine and the Daily Mail.
These were tigers Packham, along with his girlfriend Charlotte Corney, claimed had been ‘mistreated’ and ‘rescued’ from a Spanish circus family when in fact they had been donated. Now the charity involved, The Wildheart Trust, of which Packham and Corney are key trustees, faces a fundraising inquiry after hundreds of thousands of pounds were collected on the back of various crowdfunding campaigns telling porkies. The Fundraising Regulator is investigating.
Oh, and it gets worse…
At 04.24 listen to Packham’s words:
Not wanting to take Pinocchio on his word, Field Sports Britain decided to check the charity’s accounts. Lo and behold it turns out Corney did benefit from zoo funding in the form of rent that Isle of Wight zoo pays. She can take up to £68k a year if she wants, but the accounts show she doesn’t always receive that full amount *. This fact is even listed as a ‘conflict of interest’ in the charity accounts and Chris Packham as trustee is named on those accounts – signing off with his girlfriend on crucial documents listed at Companies House related to the zoo.
Before Christmas this appeared to be the only abnormality in Packham’s video testimony – aside from the tiger scams, of course. Then a week ago, an anonymous source – obviously close to Corney – contacted Country Squire Magazine with an infodump. Included in the file that was sent, there was one tip-off to say we should investigate ‘the zoo car park’.
Car parks are obvious money spinners for zoos. The car park next to the Isle of Wight zoo used to be free for anyone visiting the zoo – ideally positioned in front of the zoo and next to the sea. However there was no mention of the car park at all in the charity accounts. Had car parking been incorporated into the cost of the zoo visiting tickets, then?
It turns out the car park is still privately owned but wasn’t transferred over as an asset when the Isle of Wight zoo became the charity The Wildheart Trust in January 2017. Since then TripAdvisor houses a string of complaints from zoo visitors complaining of the £3.00 car park charge payable in addition to the cost of entrance to Isle of Wight zoo.
So who takes in money from this privately owned car park?
The Wildheart Trust was incorporated as a company in June 2016 before becoming a charity seven months later. By no coincidence C M CORNEY LIMITED (10268523) a company bearing the same name as Packham’s girlfriend – with a certain Charlotte Michele Corney as sole director – was incorporated a few weeks later on the 8th July, 2016. The company’s business is described as:
This is a generic classification but ‘Car Parking’ and ‘Car park metering’ tend to stand out in the list of available descriptions. The Isle of Wight zoo car park is managed day to day by a private contractor called Local Parking Security Ltd. Sure, the management is an overhead for the carpark owner but at £3.00 per car and with parking spaces that can hold 220 cars at any given time, the carpark still generates a tidy sum of money for Corney.
Ah, but the car park is separate from the zoo, no? That means it is separate from Wildheart Trust and nothing to do with the zoo / charity? After all, Packham has stated his girlfriend does not make a bean from the zoo.
The Isle of Wight zoo is far more involved with the carpark than it lets on:
So you can pay for the car park through the zoo’s admissions process? How handy! So the car park is still connected to the zoo despite the charity not mentioning the car park in its accounts or in its Charity Commission conflicts of interest column?
The plot thickens.
Interestingly, a complaint about the car park costs on TripAdvisor was answered directly by the Isle of Wight zoo:
Where are you going to park if you go to Isle of Wight zoo? In the car park that the Isle of Wight zoo is located right next to, of course – unless you’re coming by boat or on a jet-ski. In the car park advertised on Isle of Wight zoo’s website. In the carpark owned by Corney. In the carpark that – because of its proximity to the zoo – Corney makes money from, from Isle of Wight zoo/Wildheart Trust customers. So Corney is making money then from the zoo.
Remember Packham’s words:
She gets rent and she gets car park money from zoo visitors, Pinocchio – visitors who visit the zoo to see the crowdfunded tigers. You shame The Wildheart Trust, charities, and you continue to disgrace the BBC. The Fundraising Regulator, who are investigating you and the zoo, have been informed about these latest in your long string of falsehoods, as have the Charity Commission and HMRC who must now be wondering whether the zoo transformed from a business with many issues to a charity merely to avoid paying tax. As for the BBC – tick tock.
If You have information You feel will help our Packham investigation, please get in touch here.
* We are being maybe kinder to Ms Corney than she deserves. The accounts show the following: Accounts for the period ended 31 Jan 2019: £68,000 (Section 21) Accounts for the period ended 31 Jan 2018: £39,667 (Section 19) This accounting period ran from 1 July 2017-31 Jan 2018, that is, for 7 months. 7/12 of 68,000 is… 39,666) Accounts for the period ended 30 June 2017: £17,000 (Section 17) This looks on the face of it as though Ms Corney took less than the full rental from the charity, as the lease was set from the date of the registration of the charity (16 Jan 2017). However, the Trust began trading on 1 April 2017 (accounts for Y/E 30 June 2017, p. 2). From 1 April to 30 June is 3 months and 3/12 of £68,000 is… £17,000. To the penny. So at every stage, it looks as if Ms Corney has accepted the full rental from the zoo. The only part we are not clear about is how the rent appears in the analysis of expenditure (see p. 7, 2019 accounts) where it seems to be less than the 68k (‘Rent (charity proportion) 48,686’). The lease allows for upward revisions, and a revision was due in March 2020 (accounts for the P/E 30 June 2019, p. 5). Those accounts aren’t in yet, so that will be interesting. So the accounts do tell us the amounts that Charlotte Corney has ‘received’, and she seems to have received the full amount stated in the lease.