Jailed Asda director ordered to pay back £180,000 of stolen charity money

A director at Asda who is serving a prison sentence for defrauding the supermarket's charity fund of £180,000 has been ordered to repay ALL of his ill-gotten gains - or face longer behind bars.

Thursday, 12th May 2016, 11:25 am
Updated Thursday, 12th May 2016, 12:30 pm

Paul Kelly, 55, is currently serving a three year sentence after he abused his position as chairman of the Asda Foundation.

Kelly persuaded fellow directors to sign blank cheques, claiming he was due to meet with Prince Charles in a bid to assist flood victims.

Instead, sums of up to £80,000 were handed over to a failing ballet company run by his new young boyfriend.

Kelly’s case was returned to Leeds Crown Court for a confiscation hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The court heard Kelly had benefited to the value of £180,000 through his offending and had assets available to enable him to pay the sum.

It is understood Kelly is to sell his home in North Yorkshire in order to pay the amount.

Recorder Simon Kealey ordered that Kelly should pay the sum within 28 days or face a further jail term of up to two years.

He also ordered that the sum be paid to the Asda Foundation as compensation.

Kelly was supposed to appear in the dock of the court for the hearing but the case was heard as he was being brought to West Yorkshire in a van from the prison in Derby where he is serving his sentence.

Prosecutor Richard Walters said it was possible for the hearing to be held in his absence and attempts would be made to contact the operators of the prison van so he could be returned to jail.

After the case, Detective Inspector Jaz Khan, of Leeds District Serious Organised Crime Unit, said: “This was a very serious breach of trust by Kelly against a charitable fund that was there to help those in genuine need.

“We hope it will reassure people to know that the confiscation order granted means the full amount taken will be paid back to the foundation.

“West Yorkshire Police has specialist financial investigators who work closely alongside our criminal investigations to take the cash out of crime and we will continue to make full use the Proceeds of Crime Act to ensure that those who commit crime and benefit from it will not only lose their freedom but also their ill-gotten gains.”

Kelly, who was director of corporate affairs for the Leeds-based retailer, was jailed after admitting seven offences of fraud while he held the position of chairman of the Asda Foundation.

As well as lying about helping flood victims, he also made false claims about using the company’s cash to help disabled children.

At the time of the offending, which took place during 2013 and 2014, Kelly was on annual salary of £160,000 plus bonuses.

His role involved him chairing Asda Foundation meetings with 12 other trustees and suggesting charitable causes worthy of receiving donations.

Kelly began offending in July 2013 when he asked a fellow director to sign a cheque for £3,500 for the Murley Dance Company, the company run by his partner David Murley.

Kelly claimed the company was heavily involved with working with disabled children.

The company in fact did not do any work with disabled children and was not a charity.

Kelly also failed to declare a conflict of interest over the donation as he had invested £100,000 of his own money into the company.

Kelly repeated the offence on three further occasions, asking directors to countersign cheques for sums of £2,000, £10,000 and £15,000.

The offending became more serious in February 2014 when Kelly used severe flooding in the south west of England as an excuse to obtain larger sums of cash.

Kelly asked trustees to sign three blank cheques as he was due to meet with Prince Charles in relation to flood relief. Three cheques, two for £35,000 and one for £80,000, were instead handed over to Murley Dance.

Murley Dance Company is now in receivership and Mr Murley was unaware that the money provided by Kelly had been obtained fraudulently.

A spokesman for the supermarket said at the time of Kelly’s dismissal: “Asda expects the highest standards of integrity from its colleagues. Although we’re incredibly disappointed by these allegations, we are pleased that our internal controls worked.

“We have made an additional donation by way of a gift to the Asda Foundation to ensure that none of the good causes that it supports are financially disadvantaged as a result of this matter.’

Kelly had worked at Asda for seven years.

Prior to joining the supermarket he was group corporate affairs director at catering firm Compass Group and development director at Granada Hospitality.