Creative accounting – the Sound Foundation Charitable Trust in damage control

The Sound Foundation's Sound Training Centre - Serge Benhayon's UK church

The Sound Foundation’s Sound Training Centre – Serge Benhayon’s UK church

Last year, the UK Charity Commission launched an investigation into the Universal Medicine cult’s UK charity front, the Sound Foundation, located at UM headquarters in Frome, Somerset. Particular scrutiny was given to trustee, Simone Benhayon’s conflicts of interest over her use of Sound Foundation facilities, and as a result, the charity was issued with a compliance plan. Their 2012-13 financial statements are a testament to UM’s fundamental dishonesty – revealing glaring anomalies that should have prompted the Commission to shut the tax exempt sham down.

To recap, the Sound Foundation was founded by musician, Chris James, in 1993. Chris James is a business partner to cult leader, Serge Benhayon, and his singing workshop racket, Sounds Wonderful, tours internationally recruiting to Benhayon’s commercial religion, Universal Medicine.

The Sound Foundation was dormant until UM’s pitch to register their Way of the Livingness religion for tax exempt charity status failed in 2011. Benhayon simply picked up James’ charity and began using it to avoid tax on fundraising to construct his UK business premises, event facility, the Sound Training Centre. Apart from the conference hall and treatment rooms, the facility houses a swimming pool used by Simone Benhayon for her swim school and Esoteric water healing racket.

Glossing over controversy

As we’ve come to expect, the annual financial statements published on the UKCC website whinge about the Commission’s investigation, blame the scrutiny on cyber trolls, and glowingly praise the holiness and integrity of the outfit and its bent trustees. The document doesn’t mention the investigation revealed issues of public benefit and trustee conflicts of interest, and that the Trust was issued with an action plan and deadline for compliance.

Since 31st May 2013, the Trust has been required to dedicate a significant proportion of its volunteered time to responding to the Charity Commission’s follow-up to a malicious complaint arising from a cybertrolling group outside of the UK. The Trust responded with our ‘open book’ approach and the Commission soon confirmed no financial improprieties following a thorough audit visit, The Commission later commented publicly on the Trust’s co-operative approach.

After months of intensive reporting to the Charity Commission, towards the end of 2013 the Trust was able to return its focus to the delivery of its charitable objectives and once again began delivering on its commitment to public benefit charitable activities, as reported below in the report on our plans for the future. Sound Foundation Annual Financial Report 2012-13

Nor did they mention the reshuffle of the Sound Foundation trustees, shedding the invisible Michael Wood, and gaining three more of Serge’s prime yes artists, Stephen Anderson, Dragana Brown and Jane Keep.

It’s no coincidence Universal Medicine UK Ltd, described as UM’s UK non profit unit of service, shed three directors in the weeks following the issuance of the compliance plan – incoming trustee, Jane Keep, trustee, Sara Williams, and Lighthouse proprietor, Simon Williams.

Simon Williams is a chartered accountant, and included among the donations in kind is £26,000 worth of ‘professional services’, which I take to mean Simon and Michael Nicholson cooking the books.

Uncharitable activities and private benefit

Rather than operate to benefit the public, as is required of charites by law, the activities listed in the report are, without exception, marketing and recruitment pitches for Universal Medicine’s commercial operations in the UK. Those activities in 2012-13 were three True Movement sessions aimed at children, (demonizing non cult sport and dance forms comes later); an International Women’s Day promotion of Esoteric Women’s Health Pty Ltd’s commercial products and services; and two Chris James workshops, one of which was aimed at recruiting GPs. The charity’s objectives for 2013-14 were a repeat of the above, with the AMAZINGLY generous donation of a couple of boom boxes and a few chairs to the maternity unit at Frome Community hospital. Recruiting medical professionals helps the cult lure vulnerable patients into UM’s Glorious therapy dependency, and helps the Benhayon parasites to literally get their hands on cancer patients, the aged, and their bequests. The Sound Foundation also went after teachers, similar to the cult’s plan to infiltrate Australian schools, educating children in sycophancy and grooming them for UM’s predatory behaviour.

Simone Benhayon’s conflict of interest

The charity’s income for 2012-13 was £585,274 (compared with £1,203,892 in 2011-12), and the donations included £300,000 from trustee and chartered accountant, Michael Nicholson, presumably for tax relief. Nicholson also owns accommodation for UM event pilgrims. That total also includes a donation ‘in kind’ of £80,000 worth of swimming activities by trustee, Simone Benhayon – cult leader Serge Benhayon’s step daughter.

*£80,000 worth of swimming activities provided by Simone Benhayon.*

AUD$145,000 worth of…swimming.

The financial statement devotes a page of apologetics for Simone’s commercial conflict of interest with an appraisal of Simone’s amazing integrity and generosity.

Relationship with Creative Aquatlc, the lessee, of the Sound Training Centre Swimming Pool. The Trust’s expectations of Creative Aquatic’s potential to deliver more than a revenue raising rental business for the Trust to fund further Charitable activities and establish a relationship with and unified commitment to the philosophy of the Sound Foundation facility would be made accessible and affordable, have far been exceeded.

Which of Sergio’s Spherical Stooges wrote that obfuscatory mess?

The Trust has been transparent and responsible about managing the potential of a conflict of interest with Trustee, Ms Benhayon’s business Creative Aquatic as the Leaseholder and manager of the Sound Training Centre Swimming Pool facilities. When the decision was made in 2012, Ms Benhayon was a nationally recognized and awarded swim instructor, having won the UK National Swim Coach of the Year in 2008 and National Fundamentals Swim Coach of the Year in 2011 with an established high profile position in the local area…Blah Blah Blah

Creative Aquatic’s commitment to delivering on their Lease Agreement with the Trust has surpassed all obligations and indeed, all expectations that the Trust insisted upon to ensure that benefit to the general public remained central to the management of the pool and it remained open to use for charitable purposes.

In other words, a tax exempt facility that was supposed to be used for charitable public benefit is used by Simone for commercial purposes. When the Charity Commission began asking questions, the only way to justify all that commercial activity – running scam water healing on top of her busy swim school, was to frame some income as charitable activity, rather than cop to the charge that she was unlawfully rorting the Trust for personal benefit.

*£80,000 worth of swimming activities.*

Simone Benhayon caught out over commercial conflict of interest

Simone Benhayon (with step Dad) got caught out over commercial conflict of interest

With all that ‘charitable’ activity, where did she find time to run her swim school, and perform all those Esoteric healings, and run the charity and perform her role as company director of UM UK, and EPA UK/EU and serve as an Ascended Master and the reincarnation of Winston Churchill?

And the rest…

The Benhayon family circus performs at the Sound Training Centre for weeks through May to July and again in November. The Benhayons hold around 30 days of publicly advertised events there in the form of workshops and retreats. On top of that is who knows how many sessions and events advertised behind the subscription paywall exclusively to the UM ‘student’ body. Those include True Movement classes and private and group Esoteric healing sessions with Serge, Natalie, Miranda, Michaeal, Curtis, Emmalee and Isabella Benhayon in the days around group events. In addition, Kate Greenaway and other hierarchy parasites run a few event scams of their own.

During the year, Universal Medicine UK Ltd, a company in which the Trustees, Simone Benhayon and Sara Williams are Directors, paid the charity £7,500 for the use of facilities at the Sound Foundation Training Centre.

The statements don’t break that down into how much was paid for treatment room hire, hall hire and catering hire, but considering we can conservatively estimate that the Benhayons occupy the Sound Training Centre for 60 days a year, UM UK are paying less than £125 per day to rake money from pilgrims out of events, healing sessions, merchandise sales, and for donations and volunteer labour as well. The Sound Foundation states it has 40 volunteer staff helping the Benhayons pull money. To get an idea of prices, students pay £90 to £140 per day to pack in to workshops and retreats. Two hour group sessions with Serge are £25 and he runs them twice a day. The rest of the Benhayons run private sessions back to back at £60. In other words, UM UK pays less than £125 per day to use the Sound Foundation facilities to take tens of thousands of pounds per day. The multi million dollar enterprise, of which two charity trustees, Simone Benhayon and Sara Williams, are company directors, is receiving commercial benefit at the expense of the charity’s donors. Moreover, the premises, used for commercial purposes, was constructed using tax exempt donated funds.

Packing them in - a UM UK Ltd workshop at the Sound Training Centre

Packing them in – a UM UK Ltd workshop at the Sound Training Centre

The rest of the year, the Centre is barely used, except by UM’s business associates, Chris James and Sara Williams‘ Spherical Living nonsense. Furthermore, treatment room hire for the year yielded only £9,486, which was supposed to include rooms hired out for the seasonal Benhayon grope fest, as well as year round hire to Esoteric healers, Jonathan Stewart, Fiona Pierce and a bunch of other casual try hards. UKCC scrutiny also saw UM headquarters, The Lighthouse, which houses the Sound Training Centre, remove links to its clinic page and cease advertising UM events. Indicative of all that Esoteric ‘integrity’ they never shut up about.

Charity Commission decision

The UKCC considers the case closed and appears to be satisfied the Sound Foundation is not related to the Universal Medicine business, even though the UM business is clearly commercially benefiting from the construction and use of the facility. The Commission appears to be satisfied that Simone Benhayon could write up £80,000 worth of Esoteric swimming as a charitable donation. It appears satisfied that the Trust’s ‘charitable activities’ are to benefit the public, when they are clearly exclusively benefiting the UM enterprise. As the charity exists to market and accommodate the Universal Medicine business, and recruitment to the UM cult is known to harm followers and their families, it is operating to the detriment of the public.

Our question is, how blatant does the abuse of tax exempt charity status have to be, and how much harm has to be done to members of the public before the UKCC will take meaningful action?

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11 thoughts on “Creative accounting – the Sound Foundation Charitable Trust in damage control

  1. It is truly astonishing that these silly little groups get away with their nonsense. The Sound Foundation is quite obviously a money making machine for Chris James. His methodology is not unique and the two workshops that I attended were, in my view, somewhat trivial. Someone at the Charity Commission needs to revisit this. The owners and esoteric con artists at the Lighthouse must be rubbing their grubby little hands together and laughing all the way to the bank. How shameful that an organisation like the Charity Commission has essentially given some credibility to these people who I am sure care much more about offshore bank accounts than the wellbeing of humanity.

  2. Thanks for the rundown. So they were rorting their charitable status at first and now have had to change their reports to appear to be not rorting their charitable status.

    Well the investigation and complaints have had an effect then.

    And this whining from UM to the regulator about malicious complaints from overseas! FACT, the UK Charity Commission only acts upon complaints from within the UK. UM does themselves no long term favours by fibbing to the regulators!

  3. And it’s worth noting the parallels of the UK operation with the Australian ‘charity’ the College of UM, which suffers a similiar conflict of interest, and is also clearly set up to propagate UM teachings (now a religion) and the UM business model, which involves the establishment of ‘satellite’ practitioners to help recruit and further build the flock of faithful.

    The cult describe any complaint or notification as ‘trolling or cyber-bullying’ and invariably tell their followers that they were ‘congratulated’ (with the usual grandiosity that is the hallmark of the group and its leader) on how amazing they were in compliance, transparency and integrity.

    In both cases, nothing could be further than the truth.

    I have of course spoken to each of the departments here and while I can’t reveal what was said, I can assure you the investigators where well aware of the nature of the group, and were operating within the limited powers of their statutes, even if they had wanted to do more. Congratulations certainly were not in order. Perhaps they mistake the ‘thank you’ form letter at the end of an investigation as an award? It’d be consistent.

    It’s worth re-iterating that the charity here has been forced into an undertaking over Serge’s potential conflict of interest as a result of the ACNC complaint we initiated. And the cult ‘decided’ not to renew their public fundraising authority as a direct result of the complaint lodged with the OLGR, which meant the OGLR did not fully investigate, but also means the general public can’t be duped into participating in handing the group money via raffles, competitions or other public activities. Small, but significant wins.

    The group and specific members believe because ‘authorities’ have not come down on UM publicly that it verifies their claim of integrity.

    Wrong.

    It means the ‘authorities’ either don’t know, or can’t act due to the laws that they must act under and often constrain them. They can only know when someone tells them – often repeatedly. And they can only act, according to their Acts.

    It’s well known we (and many others) believe that the CoUM should not have charity status, just as the UK charity is an obvious sham. We will be continuing to make representations on that front, despite the protestations of the cult, and the ramblings of the various hate and misinformation mongers (no doubt at the behest of the master) that mistakenly believe we can be intimidated into silence.

    Wrong again.

    • Again we’d get more action if more people were willing to speak up about UM’s harms. As for the ACNC and UKCC, I don’t think they are limited by the legislation or laws. They’re limited by operational dysfunction. Both have the powers to shut down Serge’s sham charities. What they don’t have is the will to properly investigate the ample evidence provided, and to put two and two together. The UKCC made one visit to the Sound Centre as far as I’m aware. What they should have done is visited during June or November, when the Benhayon family circus is in full flight.

      Also, this should have been included in the above post:

      Universal Medicine UK Ltd, described as UM’s UK non profit unit of service, shed three directors in the weeks following the issuance of the compliance plan – incoming Sound Foundation trustee, Jane Keep, Sound Foundation trustee, Sara Williams, and Lighthouse proprietor, Simon Williams.

      Simon Williams is a chartered accountant, and included among the donations in kind is £26,000 worth of ‘professional services’, which I take to mean Simon and Michael Nicholson cooking the books.

      • I notice that last time I checked, CoUM is still registered as a charity with the ACNC even though it is clearly and solely set up to profit members, or one member anyway.

        Is another report to them worth it? I wonder if they will get to it before they are shut down.

        Also, I’m curious about whether the AFP might find any of the behavior fraudulent, even without all the bullshit ‘healing’ and claims of Serge as a member of the hierarchy who will descend in the fiery lakes or whatever. Surely the CoUM shuffling the chair when scrutinized, the GST exemption, the shady fronts that keep opening all over the place, the EPA that takes money for accrediting people who do courses in unrecognized modalities that are only taught by people who run the EPA, surely something in all this is fraud in a legal sense. Especially if you read Serge’s own ramblings.

        It certainly stinks of fraud in a plain english sense.

        • Yes, it’s fraud.

          Australian and UK Charity Commissions supposedly have public benefit tests, but I’m thinking those are a fraud as well. How does UM benefit the public? Or Scientology, or Christian Assemblies International or the Exclusive Brethren etc.?

          As long as charities write in their reports that they’re doing the right thing, they can do whatever they like. No one checks. When malfeasance is reported, no one checks.

          As for the other fraudulent behaviour – that’s part of ACCC law, run through the Office of Fair Trading. Again, they can’t act without complaints. So we can point out the EPA is not a registered training organization and can’t legally accredit anything, but the OFT won’t do anything unless someone makes a complaint and says they’ve been ripped off. NSW Fair Trading Ph 13 32 20

  4. Hilarious! MALICIOUS COMPLAINTS don’t result in regulatory action and a lot of scrambling to scrub up the image.
    Simone, sorry Winston, must be an ascended master if she could manage to give all those free swimming lessons. She must be giving swimming lessons night and day. Or her lessons are over priced.
    What a load of shameless crooks. Keep exposing them please.

  5. Yeah, it’s barely possible. I guess all the time they wasted dealing with ‘offshore malicious complaints’ would have severely cut into the time Simone could have been sweating it out in the pool as ‘charity in kind’. Makes absolutely no sense at all.

    It’s hard to believe that the UK Charity commission bought that, but then we’ve seen a lot of other bureaucrats eat shit so it’s not entirely without precedent. I think the ACNC did the same here when Serge claimed it was ‘true charity’ for him to hold the land and property that would enjoy a big capital improvement at the (anonymous) donors expense.

    There’s a lot more we’d like to expose Observer. All I can tell you at this stage is it a lot worse than you can imagine. They are shysters through and through. And Serge keeps them trapped in his little hamster wheel just by telling them by thinking otherwise or harbouring a doubt, the bogey man of ‘astral energy’ will get ’em. And they buy it.

    It’d be hilarious if it wasn’t so evil.

  6. I just dont understand how they get away with it. Serge Benhayen has some kind of power over people that gets them to keep coming to these groups and paying thousands.

    • It’s not a magical power Jenny. Even if Serge or the members think it might be, He has group dynamics (no hierarchy) on his side.

      Mere humans looking for transcendence, yearning to be led &self-indoctrinating, primed with his plagarized BS; the payoff is copious doses of endorphins induced by the group love-in, like-mindedness & group-speak. A powerful drug.

      For the members now, life outside of that bubble would be unthinkable. They are prepared to accept the contradictions and compromises, to hand over their cash, their time, their families, and even their own lives.

      What’s the alternative? Facing up to the fact they have been conned, are living in a fantasy and are behaving very badly? There’s no competition is there.

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