Charity regulator probes zoo affairs

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Trouble-hit Edinburgh Zoo is facing a lenghy probe by Scotland’s charity regulator’?

CRISIS hit Edinburgh Zoo is facing a lengthy probe into its affairs by Scotland’s charity regulator.

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) is holding an inquiry, which could ultimately lead to the zoo being stripped of its charity status.

And the probe could also lead to criminal proceedings.

The regulator confirmed it was making investigations following a Freedom of Information request.

In recent weeks one director has been sacked and two suspended from the zoo.

A spokesman for the regulator said:

“I can confirm that OSCR currently has an open inquiry into the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. It is therefore not appropriate for us to comment further.’

The investigation into the goings on at the zoo could run into next year, according to the charity body.

The spokesman added:

“We aim to conclude our inquiries within as short a period as possible and, generally within six months. However, the nature of some inquiries may be both complex and require input from multiple sources or court action. Our target is therefore to conclude 75% of complaints within nine months.’

Yesterday it emerged that two giant pandas due to arrive at the attraction are expected to be flown in by special jet this summer.

News of the probe came as Manus Fullerton, (RZSS) executive board member, admitted the zoo’s reputation had been damaged by a series of anonymous allegations and appealed to those

“maliciously’ leaking information to come forward.

The leaks were said to be hindering the internal investigation at the zoo.

However, according to the regulator, charity officials can take such action when there is information to suggest a

“serious or sustained mismanagement or misconduct by those in management and control.”

They can also intervene if there is a risk of

“significant damage or detriment to the charity, its assets, beneficiaries or reputation’ and action is necessary and proportionate to protect a charity.

The probe comes after senior executive Gary Wilson was suspended. It has been reported that he faces allegations he stole from a 4.5million monkey house project.

Director of animals Iain Valentine, who helped broker the 6million deal with the Chinese to bring giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang to the zoo, was also suspended. And director of development Anthony McReavy was reported to have been sacked over an email row.

According to the regulator’s legislation such enquiries can conclude with action taken by the police or the Crown Office.

The body can also send recommendations to the charity to gain assurance of future action.

The scope of the investigation is not known, but ultimately the zoo could be struck from the charity register, which would mean losing grant and tax benefits.

The zoo has confirmed it is helping with inquiries.

It has been revealed that the zoo held talks over leasing part of its operation to a Spanish leisure firm and the leaks appeared to be coming from someone who had an agenda, Mr Fullerton said.

He added:

“The idea for the lease plan came from a member of staff and maybe one or some of the others didn’t like it.’

Next week employees, some of whom claim they have not been kept well enough informed about the problems, will be invited to a meeting with zoo officials.

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