DILKUMAR ALE MAGAR, KATHMANDU, Aug 18: Light House Foundation Nepal (LHFN) has claimed that the Swedish NGO Love Nepal, later renamed as Love and Hope, to have committed fraud and illegally pocketed millions of US dollars in the name of social works.
LHFN claims that the organization put up dramatic stories of rescuing some 600 Nepali girls from brothels in India, and running homes for 900 girls in Nepal. And through social media they asked money from Swedish people and companies based on Sweden and other countries as well and they also figured in public media like newspapers, radio and television, and raised 4 millions of US dollar on the pretext of assisting these children.
“Love and Hope have no homes in Nepal, and they didn’t rescue any children. In fact they were only sponsors to the local Nepali organization Light House Foundation Nepal, which has operated children’s home locally since 2009 and has rescued some girls from brothels,” said Anneli Wester, a Swedish lawyer during a press conference organized by the LHFN at Reporters’ Club Nepal on Friday.
Wester, a motivational speaker, mentor, and world record-setting climber, who received the famous Adventurer of the Year Award in Sweden in 2011, had come to Nepal in 2015 to help with relief work after the earthquakes. It was during this first time she had a closer look at the Swedish NGO Love and Hope. Because of her previous experience with Nepal, NGOs and legal setup of non-profit work, Wester immediately suspected that the organization’s work was false and that it claims were fraudulent. This is when she came in contact with LHFN.
“While living in Nepal, they were engaged in illicit activities that go against the notion of children welfare like taking photographs of the children to make documentaries and advertising, sexually harassing them,” added Wester.
Wester explained that of the total raised money only 380,000 US dollar ever reached the Foundation, and only 10-12 percent reached the mention purpose over all, including other organization.
Love and Hope was run by Swedish nationals Mikael Alfven and his wife Ing-Marie Alfven.
“The Swedish couple came to Nepal and expressed desire to financially support such children. Resultantly, we reached an agreement regarding the use of such support to run the institution,” said the president of LHFN, Vijay Lama.
“The Children later complained that these Swedish citizens mistreated them. When the officials of the institution inquired these people about such complains, they instead misbehaved with such officials. They frequently turned down our request to help resolve the problem,” added Lama.
“Later, they left for Sweden without informing us. We tried to contact them but could not succeed,” he added.
The Light House Foundation reported four of Love and Hope’s workers to the police for several crimes such as violating the United Nations’ Children’s Convention, sexual harassment of several children, cyber crimes (using several children’s photos in social media without prior consent, misrepresenting these children and violating their right to privacy) and fraud (including presenting Light House Foundation’s work as their own; using its work, employees and children to raise money for a non-agreed cause).
LHFN has filed the case against the foreign NGO at the Tourist Police of Nepal, Bhrikutimandap and the Department of Counselor Services at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal who have forwarded the case to the Swedish authorities.
“The response from the authorities on this matter has been historic. It is the first case in Nepal to breach the UN’s Children’s Convention, and Nepali authorities have taken the matter very seriously, involving Swedish authorities to coordinate legal efforts and action,” added Wester.
“I have also been to the UN to inform them of the international significance of this, as there is a widespread problem not only in Nepal but throughout the world where the relief organization operates, preferably Western aid organizations,” she furthered.
“It’s a multi-billion industry. Western organizations are misusing the situation of the poor and vulnerable and both exploit and violate them. And there they stand, completely powerless. Very many times in a deprivation position, – if you not do as we say then we stop giving money. And there they stand in charge of a orphanage. Or as in this case, with over 600 children, despite the Children’s Convention. And very million of dollars raised for these children and the homes have not reached where they were told when they raised. It is still unknown what more of one million US dollar of what Love and Hope spent only last year have been used to. Besides luxury hotels for their whole family and business class air tickets, a problem that needs attention. I’m considering moving this topic to a higher international level. In that, Love and Hope becomes a good example of how it can be,” added Wester.
“This also becomes a warning to others. Do not come to Nepal and act wrongly, then we can take action. If you are taken here in Nepal in such issue, there is a risk you will end up a couple of years in prison. And this will be a inspiration to other organizations, both in Nepal and in other countries, to stand up for your rights when exploited by a more powerful organization. And even other countries like Nepal’s situation, no permission of someone else is needed, we have the choice and power to take action by ourselves. It is good and important,” added Wester.