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Charity boss who spent donations on dragon project ordered to redistribute cash

A computer-generated image of the proposed Welsh dragon statue (Simon Wingett/PA)
A computer-generated image of the proposed Welsh dragon statue (Simon Wingett/PA)

A cancer charity boss who ploughed public donations into building a giant Welsh dragon statue has been ordered to pay more than £100,000 to local good causes.

Simon Wingett’s foundation, Frank Wingett Cancer Relief, ran a shop in Wrexham Maelor Hospital, North Wales, but had not made a single charitable donation in seven years by the time of its closure in 2018.

Instead, his accounts showed he had invested £410,000 of the charity’s earnings during the same period in a project to create a 210ft dragon sculpture near the A5 in Chirk, Wrexham.

Mr Wingett has long claimed the huge bronze dragon, which had planning permission to be erected on a former colliery site, would become a tourist attraction to rival well-known landmarks such as the Angel of the North.

Welsh dragon statue unveiled
The statue has not been built (Simon Wingett/PA)

The dragon has not been built.

The charity was set up by his father to buy equipment and resources for cancer patients in Wrexham and the surrounding area after he was diagnosed with throat cancer in the 1980s.

Its last payment in 2011 to Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board was for £4,500.

Following an investigation by the Charity Commission which began in 2017, Mr Wingett was banned from acting as a trustee of any charity for 10 years.

He has now been ordered by the High Court of Justice to pay more than £117,000, which will be distributed to local charities supporting the relief of cancer patients treated in Wrexham.

The charity regulator said on Thursday that the dragon statue project “has no connection to advancing the charity’s aims and, to date, no statue has been built”.

Tracy Howarth, the commission’s assistant director of casework, said: “Charity trustees hold important positions of trust.

“We – and the public – expect trustees to ensure financial decisions are taken in the best interests of the charity and those it serves to benefit.

“Mr Wingett’s significant misuse of funds was an abuse of the trust placed in him by the many donors to the charity.

“This ruling will ensure the charitable proceeds raised are now directed to the benefit of those in the local community they were intended for.”