Cancer charity boss who spent donations on giant dragon statue ordered to redistribute cash

Legal action was brought against Simon Wingett by the Charity Commission after an investigation revealed what the public donations had been spent on. Credit: PA Images/Simon Wingett

The boss of a cancer charity who spent almost half a million pounds of donations on building a giant Welsh dragon statue has been ordered to pay more than £100,000 to local good causes.

Legal action was brought against Simon Wingett after it was revealed that he had ploughed £410,000 of his charity’s earnings into a project to create a 210ft dragon sculpture.

The statue, which Mr Wingett hoped would become a tourist attraction, was never built.

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.

Mr Wingett's foundation, the Frank Wingett Cancer Relief, had a shop in Wrexham Maelor Hospital.

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

By the time the shop closed in 2018, the foundation had not made a single charitable donation in seven years. Its last payment in 2011 to Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board was for £4,500.

In the years up to its closure, the former charity trustee had instead used public donations to try and create a bronze dragon statue near the A5 in Chirk, Wrexham.

He hoped the sculpture would become a tourist attraction rivaling landmarks like the Angel of the North.

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

On 12 September 2022, legal action brought against Mr Wingett by the Charity Commission was successful and the court ordered the ex-charity boss to pay £117,100.32.

Subject to recovery of the funds, this money will be distributed by the Commission to local cancer charities in Wrexham.

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

Planning permission had been granted to create the gigantic bronze statue on the former colliery site, but the dragon was never built. Credit: PA Images/Simon Wingett

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.”