Benny and Maria Wenda: The Worst Corruption Scandal in West Papua Campaign for FreedomKunume Wone
Free West Papua's organisation has been highly successful in obtaining money from donors around the world, especially when Benny Wenda got rid of Octovianus Mote as the Chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) in December 2017. The moderately inactive ULMWP was used as bait for more donation ever since Benny Wenda has been in power.
This article talks about what makes the Free West Papua's fundraising the biggest scandal in West Papua Campaign for Freedom.
In our investigation, Benny Wenda is rather clean with the exception of how he is able to pay thousands of pounds for the maintenance of his blue Land Rover Defender. Our investigation also provides insight into how the Free West Papua Campaign (FWPC) managed to get the funding, and why some information - despite a legal requirement to provide it - was so hard to obtain.
FWPC, with the company number 09186009, is a Private Limited Company by guarantee without the share capital use of "Limited" exemption. This Status is similar to the Free Tibet Campaign, with the exception of their open declaration to their nature of business. The Free Tibet Campaign is in category number 94920 as activities of political organisations. In contrast, the FWPC's nature of business is in category number 94990, as activities of other membership organisations are not elsewhere classified. Why does the FWPC deliberately put itself under this category? The simplest answer is to attract more donors and widen the opportunities for different types of fundraising.
The FWPC is led by a self-proclaimed West Papuan leader, Benny Wenda who was accused by the Papuan Police of murdering a policeman during a chaotic demonstration in 2002. Later, in 2003, he was permitted to stay in UK with an asylum status. According to Wikipedia, "Wenda was placed on trial in 2002 for allegedly leading a procession of people in an independence rally. The demonstration turned violent, with Indonesian authorities alleging that those present torched two shops and murdered a policeman". We may believe that Benny Wenda's arrest was politically motivated. However, the death and damage caused by him should not be easily overlooked.
Several Oxford locals have helped Wenda and his family settle in Oxford, and fortunately for us, some of them provided crucial information regarding the FWPC's financial irregularities. It is not our intention to accuse Benny Wenda and his wife, Maria Wenda, for embezzlement of donations, but there is circumstantial evidence pointing out the irregularities. We think that it is important for all FWPC supporters to think twice before they donate or at least request an explanation.
On 14th September 2017, Oxford Mail reported Wenda's crime conviction as follows:
BENNY WENDA, 41, of Marston Road, Oxford, was convicted of failing to give information as to the identity of a driver between January 9 and February 6, and speeding at Oxford on December 25 by driving 35mph in a 30mph area. He was fined ￡660 and must pay surcharge of ￡66 and court cost of ￡85. He was also disqualified from driving for six months.
Two significant evidence of Wenda's record of violation of law may not enough to open our eyes for other potential crime of corruption. However, let us look closer into the FWPC's suspicious financial statements based on their documents.
According to its financial report, the FWPC successfully collected donations of ￡94,389 in 2015, ￡130,846 in 2016, and ￡10,559 in 2017, which the latest is a drastic drop. We received leaked information that huge amount of donations were collected from several different sources such as the Bertha Foundation, Lush, Court Lodge Farm, Kava King, and individuals who donate from the of ten to thousands of pounds. However, the FWPC's funding was dramatically dropped during 2017 and 2018 due to some substantial decrease of financial support from some big donors.
Abnormalities in the FWPC's financial statement can be seen in the use of their collected money. For example, the cost of staff of the FWPC was ￡49,154, which is more than one third of their collected fund in 2016. Furthermore, it is suspicious that the FWPC used the term "other charges" which totaled to ￡83,532 in their statement (see caption of the FWPC financial statement or for detail please visit https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09186009/filing-history).
The 2016 financial statement showed how the FWPC used their raised funds. If we compare the FWPC's financial statements from 2015, 2016, and 2017, differences can be found not only in their financial data, but also in the terminology. For example, for the 9th May 2016 and 16th May 2018 reports, the FWPC used the term "Creditor: amounts falling due within one year". On the other hand, they used "Other Income" in the 2017 financial statement in explaining a huge donation in 2016. Why did the FWPC use this "Other Income" when they collected a large sum of donations in 2016?
Diversion of Money?
During the same year of fantastic donations, on 3oth September 2016, Maria Wenda and three supporters of the FWPC (Kate Hannah Swart, Gabriel Jacobus Swart, and Luann Steenkamp) established Nirvana Innovations LLP. Maria Wenda was a designated member of Nirvana Innovations LLP. It seems that Maria Wenda tried to fool the Company House by providing a diferent date of birth. On one hand, she submitted her date of birth as July 1977 for Nirvana. On the other hand, for her other position as the Director of the FWPC, she used July 1980. By providing different birth years, the Company House and the public will see Maria Wenda as two different people, when in fact they are the same person. Why?
It is an offence under the Companies Act to submit a false filing including names, address and date of birth. Information on reporting fraud to Companies House can be found on our website
It is clear that Maria Wenda submitted her false date of birth to the Companies House.
We may also speculate that Nirvana Innovations LLP is money laundering company that is absorbing all donations from the FWPC. But according to our source, it was not a money laundering practice. It was simply a diversion of money collected from people who sympathises with the FWPC. As for the use of the money itself, only Maria Wenda, Benny Wenda, their close friends know.
We would like highlight that without the inspection of financial records, including banking statements, invoice, receipts, and cash books, it is almost impossible to disclose the use of funds by Benny Wenda and friends.
The FWPC's activities may be straightforward. They may collect and use little money, while the transactions may not be as complicated. Even the simplest fundraising activities requires due diligence. The FWPC should promote the transparency and accountability of public fundraising, ensuring the public ti have trust and confidence in their financial management and work. In addition, Benny Wenda's fundraising campaign on behalf of ULMWP has the potential to increase their income. However, the FWPC's financial statement in 2018 showed a dramatic decrease to only ￡10,559. Why? Perhaps Wenda could not sell the ULMWP name for his fundraising, or the 2018 financial report was another fraud.
Our intention in disclosing the FWPC's financial statement is not only for moral responsibilities, but to also grant a request from an anonymous FWPC insider whistleblower. The fact that the FWPC is not a charity has put us in a difficult position to openly ask the FWPC to comply with the Charity Commission's compliance toolkit to protect charities from harm. However, checking on the FWPC's money management, including receiving money and the use of it is imperative. The risk of misuse of funds raised by FWPC is huge, but the may cunningly escape by blaming donors' ignorance for not checking the FWPC's financial statement accurately.
Who will benefit from this disclosure?
This disclosure is primarily intended for donors, organisations, and individuals which give grants or donations to the FWPC and ULMWP to deliver West Papua Campaign project in the UK and internationally. However, donors may not understand the importance of checking the FWPC's responsibilities in financial management under the Charities Act 2016 new fundraising rules.
Free West Papua Campaign https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09186009/filing-history
Nirvana Innovations LLP