Between 2001 and 2005, Kitumbula ‘Joseph’ Mazambi, 44, of Tewkesbury Close, Tottenham, Mapendo Kasiba, 40, of Tewkesbury Close, Tottenham and Kyalemaninwa ‘Jack’ Mazambi, 42, of Winsford Road, Coventry conspired to steal from grant-giving bodies and charities by making fraudulent applications for funding. However, instead of using the money for charitable purposes, they used it for their own means.
During a seven-week trial at Isleworth Crown Court the jury heard how Kitumbula Mazambi – a biology graduate of the University of Kinshasa – masterminded the fraud. The 44-year-old fled the Democratic Republic of Congo fearing persecution, before entering the United Kingdom as an asylum seeker during the mid-1990s.
After becoming aware of the wealth of small grants available from charities he successfully applied for funds for a number of spurious projects. He soon discovered a method of avoiding justifying how the funds were spent – taking advantage of the sporadic checks on how the money was actually being used.
Working alongside his co-defendants, Kitumbula Mazambi created numerous differently constituted bodies to maximize the grants that they could obtain. Each of these organisations purported to benefit people from the Democratic Republic of Congo and other surrounding ‘Great Lakes’ countries living both in the UK and in Africa.
The group made applications seeking funding of up to £60,000 a time for projects that were so vague and nebulous that it would be extremely difficult to check whether the projects had in fact been carried out.
Whilst some charitable work was done, the vast majority of paperwork that police uncovered could not be verified, had little or no audit trail and involved fraudulent invoices. A large proportion of the money was frittered away on "volunteer expenses", stationary, petrol for undisclosed vehicles and administration costs. In summary, there was little or no evidence of bone-fide charitable work being done, but ample evidence of the suspects using the funds to finance their lifestyles and/or send abroad.
The three compounded their crimes by selling their fraud expertise to other bogus claimants for substantial sums of cash. They were the main players operating within a much larger cell. A further six defendants were convicted of fraud in a series of four previous trials and are currently serving a combined prison sentence of more than 17 years.
The nine together defrauded charities of more than £1 million.
The fraudsters were eventually caught when a grants officer from the Big Lottery Fund noticed suspicious similarities between a number of different grant applications, in August 2004. She alerted her supervisor who, in turn, alerted the Metropolitan Police Service. After initial enquiries, officers from the MPS’s Economic and Specialist Crime Command opened an investigation.
Welcoming the sentencing, investigating officer Detective Constable Roger Boydell-Smith, said: "It is important when money is obtained by way of grants for charitable purposes that the public has confidence that the money is not used dishonestly.
"These individuals cynically betrayed their positions of trust by systematically stealing charitable funds raised in good faith by members of the public.
"Money that should have helped those in need was used instead for their own activities. I hope that these prison sentences have sent a strong message to those intent on defrauding charities that they will be unequivocally held to account for their actions."
Kyalemaninwa Mazambi was charged with conspiracy to defraud on 22 July 2009.
Kitumbula Mazambi was charged with conspiracy to defraud on 23 July 2009.
Mapendo Kasiba was charged with conspiracy to defraud on 29 July 2009.
Kyalemaninwa Mazambi and Kitumbula Mazambi were remanded in custody. Kasiba was released on conditional bail.
All three were found guilty at Isleworth Crown Court on 4 August.
They were sentenced as follows:
Kitumbula Mazambi – four years imprisonment
Kyalemaninwa Mazambi – three and a half years imprisonment (brother of Kitumbula)
Mapendo Kasiba – two years imprisonment suspended for 18 months (wife of Kitumbula)