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Police will not be pursuing allegations over RIBA’s ‘missing £1.1m’

Theis + Khan's revamp of 76 Portland Place
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The police will not be pursuing allegations of fraud levelled at the RIBA over a ‘missing £1.1 million’ from the institute’s books

Earlier this year Elsie Owusu, at the time an RIBA presidential candidate, made an official complaint to the City of London, accusing the organisation of mislaying members’ funds.

It is understood the allegations related to a loan taken out in 2013 for the lease and revamp of 76 Portland Place, which is close to the institute’s existing headquarters and now houses RIBA staff.

Speaking to The Times in July, Owusu said: ‘I have been reluctant to take this step, hoping the RIBA would commit to proper action, but it is obviously quite the reverse. It seems that possible wrongdoing may be being covered up.’

However, a spokesperson for the City of London Police said the matter would not be taken further at this time. ‘[This case]  was reviewed by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and it is considered to be a civil matter,’ they said.

‘For this reason, it will not be sent to a police force to be investigated.’

RIBA president Ben Derbyshire has always maintained the institute had nothing to hide over how it spent its budget on the 76 Portland Place project. In the summer he tweeted: ‘There is no missing £1.1m. This came up in 2017, has been investigated internally & by Charity Commission & Auditors to the satisfaction of @RIBA Council.’ 

Responding to the news, Owusu said: ‘A report is being prepared which contains a lot of information that the police must review fully before making a final decision on this matter.

‘I have recently received information from the RIBA about the “missing £1.1 million”, which confirms many questions remain unanswered.’

In a statement released to the AJ today (23 October), Derbyshire said: ’This allegation of fraud was completely unfounded and we welcome that the police have chosen not to pursue this.

‘At the RIBA we take great care to manage our finances wisely in accordance with our charitable purpose and to the benefit of members, society and the communities we serve.’

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