Weekly News

RHS boss stole £700k to fund party lifestyle scamming charity over 10 years

July 23,2016 08:32

A senior manager at the Royal Horticultural Society lived the high life using money he stole from the charity. Stuart Medhurst persuaded friends to submit fake invoices to help him carry out his £700,000 ten-year scam. The 55-year-old, who lived in a ...

A senior manager at the Royal Horticultural Society lived the high life using money he stole from the charity.Stuart Medhurst persuaded friends to submit fake invoices to help him carry out his £700,000 ten-year scam.The 55-year-old, who lived in a grace-and-favour RHS apartment and was rarely seen in the office, was spending tens of thousands of pounds a year at bars, restaurants and clubs in London’s West End even though his salary as head of operations was only £40,000.He was arrested after the fraud was uncovered by an RHS employee and now faces jail along with two accomplices.  Stuart Medhurst admitted stealing money from the famous gardening organisationMedhurst arranged for Elaine Summers, 54, a former PR executive he had known for 25 years, and Shaheen Kadri, 44, a high-flying HR partner, to send him bogus invoices for cleaning and maintenance work for RHS exhibitions.He authorised payments, which were made to bank accounts of the two well-heeled women. Most of the cash was then funnelled into Medhurst’s bank account.He spent some of the money on phones, computers, televisions, kitchen appliances and personal grooming equipment, while nearly £44,000 went on luxury watches.Medhurst also enjoyed a lavish social life. In just over two years to November 2013, when the scam was exposed, he ran up bills of over £18,000 at Kettner’s Brasserie champagne bar, £14,000 at a Balans restaurant and £24,000 at the Shadow Lounge, a gay private members club popular with celebrities.At the time the RHS, which runs the Hampton Court Palace and Chelsea flower shows, was making more than 100 people redundant due to budget cuts.Suspicion fell on Medhurst when an RHS employee raised questions about invoices to a company named ‘Elaine V Summers’ for cleaning services in October 2013.An investigation found that huge sums had been paid to the company even though another firm, CBA Cleaning, was contracted to provide all cleaning services for the charity.Medhurst was arrested and sacked. He had to quit his RHS apartment in Westminster and declared himself bankrupt. Elaine Summers outside court. Mr Medhurst, 55, got Ms Summers, 54, to pass him on bogus invoices for cleaning work over a 10 year periodn the face of overwhelming evidence, he pleaded guilty last year to two charges of conspiracy to steal and one charge of fraud.But full details of the case could not be reported because Summers, of Notting Hill, West London, and Kadri, of Camden, North West London, denied the charges.Last week both were found guilty of theft after a trial at Southwark Crown Court.Recorder Gopal Hooper warned Medhurst and the two women that they face jail when they are sentenced in September.The case has shocked the RHS. Yesterday a source said: ‘Medhurst was mysterious, few people knew he even existed. He was very secretive.His responsibilities separated him from the general slew of RHS operations.‘He lived alone in a grace-and-favour flat on the top floor. He was an elusive character who never seemed to be around. No one knew what he did all day. Shaheen Kadri. Mr Medhurst, also got Mr Kadri, 44, to pass him on bogus invoices‘He was known to be an alcoholic and was regarded as useless by some colleagues.‘No one knows how that much money managed to be missing for so long. When the fraud was ongoing, RHS was implementing large-scale redundancies. Where were the official auditors in all of this?’Sue Biggs, director general of the RHS, said: ‘The RHS uses donations and funds from its supporters to enrich lives and improve horticulture and the environment across the UK.‘For someone to commit fraud and take money from a charity is deplorable. This fraud was detected as over the last four years we have been conducting in-depth audits across all our work and implementing more robust measures and controls.‘Today we’re in a strong position to ensure unacceptable activity could not take place. The losses have been largely covered by insurance.’


Share this article