The Commissioner of Charities (COC) has issued a prohibition order under Section 39B(1)(a) of the Charities Act to bar Ashlee Chua Jermaine (Ashlee) from conducting any fund-raising appeal, online or offline, for charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes with effect from 29 June 2018.
Section 39B(1) empowers the COC to prohibit or stop the conduct of any fund-raising appeal by any charity or person; or restrict the conduct of any fund-raising appeal by any charity or person by imposing conditions. The Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) investigations against Ashlee are ongoing.
Ashlee Chua Jermaine, also known as “Ashley Lee” or “Ian Ian”, is linked to a Facebook closed group known as “Ian Free Milk Blessing”. The group is known to reach out to needy families that do not have the financial means to purchase sufficient formula milk or have children suffering from chronic or congenital illness.
The COC had issued an order under the Charities Act to Ashlee earlier this year in relation to the “Ian Free Milk Blessing” Facebook group and she failed to furnish the requisite information, which amounts to an offence under the Charities Act.
Ashlee was alleged to have cheated at least three beneficiaries of fund-raising appeals conducted on the GIVE.asia crowdfunding platform. In these three cases, the beneficiaries reported that Ashlee became uncontactable after they transferred money to her.
Ashlee was also alleged to be behind a fund-raising appeal conducted by the “Ian Free Milk Blessing” Facebook group hosted on the GIVE.asia crowdfunding platform. The funds raised from the fund-raising appeal were purportedly transferred to Ashlee, who has not provided any accountability on how these funds have been used.
There is even a Facebook group created especially to alert the public about the scams of ‘Ian Free Milk Blessing.’ The Group, ‘Ian Milk Blessing Alert‘ which claims to have been started by victims of Ashley’s pointed out several alleged scams by Ashley. Among the victims is an elderly woman who has lost all her life savings and the mother of a child with special needs who lost $53,000 meant for the child’s medical needs.
Ashley and Ricky Ng, special place in hell waiting for u.
Ashlee is an undischarged bankrupt. She is also being investigated by SPF for suspected criminal offences. The COC said that he was satisfied that Ashlee is not a fit and proper person to conduct fund-raising appeals for charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes and that it is in the public interest to prohibit Ashlee from conducting such fund-raising appeals.
The COC has therefore decided to prohibit Ashlee from conducting any fund-raising appeals with effect from 29 June 2018.
When members of public come across appeals for donations on social media or crowdfunding platforms, they are advised to find out more about the charitable cause before deciding to donate. Members of public should ask how their donations will be used, who the beneficiary is and how the fund-raiser will transfer the donation to the beneficiary.
When donating online, do read all the information provided by the fund-raiser carefully and check if there are transaction fees or additional terms and conditions applicable. Always get the full picture before giving.
In the case of social media platforms, it is important to note that where there is a representation that the whole or any part of the proceeds will be used for charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes, such representation whether made expressly or impliedly is considered a fund-raising appeal by law.
As such, organisers of such activities are required to comply with the Charities (Fund-Raising Appeals for Local and Foreign Charitable Purposes) Regulations 2012. The requirements prescribed in the Regulations include:
- keeping of accounting records; and
- disclosing clear and accurate information on, amongst others, the name of the charity or person to which the donation will be given, the purpose for which the donation will be used, and whether any commercial fund-raiser has been engaged.
The Commissioner of Charities, Dr Ang Hak Seng, emphasised that: “All fund-raising appeals for charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes, whether online or offline, are subject to regulation. We take a serious view of violations of requirements of the Charities Act and will not hesitate to take action if there is reason to believe that the appeal has been improperly administered.”