Sick Kids fraud claims: Charity boss meeting denied

Entreprenuer Jim McColl said he was in Monaco on the day of the alleged meeting with Elaine McGonigle. Picture: Sandy Young
Entreprenuer Jim McColl said he was in Monaco on the day of the alleged meeting with Elaine McGonigle. Picture: Sandy Young
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Entrepreneur Jim McColl has told a court he could not have had dinner with charity boss Elaine McGonigle – as he was at his “home from home in Monaco”.

The engineer – dubbed by Alex Salmond as Scotland’s leading businessman – said the alleged meeting on April 4, 2009, was impossible as he had flown to Monte Carlo the previous day.

McGonigle, 50, the former director of the New Pyjamas Campaign set up to raise 
£15 million for a new Sick Kids hospital, is alleged to have defrauded the charity out of £1855 with a series of false expenses.

One of the claims was £70.40 for a meeting with Mr McColl and Jack McConnell – a meal date which the former First Minister previously denied ever took place.

Mr McColl, chief executive of Clyde Blowers Capital, said he donated money to a number of charities but could “not recall” ever giving money to the children’s hospital campaign.

When asked by fiscal depute Pauline Shade if he had ever had dinner with the defendant, he said: “I do not recall ever having dinner with Elaine McGonigle.”

He said he had flown out on April 3 and returned to Scotland on April 7, 2009. He said had also been on a trip to the United States around the same time.

The 62-year-old said: “I wasn’t in the country that day. If it helps, I have my travel tickets here.”

But he told the court he did recognise McGonigle and could not rule out having met her at an Entrepreneurial Exchange event, a mentoring organisation for aspiring businesses.

As one of the founding members, he estimated he had met between 300 and 400 people at a number of get-togethers, primarily held on the west coast.

When questioned by defence counsel Drew Mackenzie, he said: “I had been asked a couple of times and said ‘I don’t know the individual, I have never met her’. At that point my PA said I might have met her through the Entrepreneurial Exchange.”

Edinburgh Sheriff Court also heard from a former colleague at the Sick Kids campaign.

Amanda Quinn said she was asked to join the charity as an events manager after working alongside McGonigle at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers.

Her role included organising the then director’s diary, helping to arrange her meetings and, on occasions, booking her business flights. She said she remembered booking a couple of trips flying from Dundee Airport, near McGonigle’s home, to meet clients in London but never outwith the UK.

Ms Quinn said she had permission to change McGonigle’s electronic diary entries and would do so “upon instruction”, or when asked by someone to make an appointment.

Ms Shade asked: “Did you ever personally remove any meetings from Elaine McGonigle’s diary?”

She replied: “I couldn’t say for certain I haven’t, but I cannot recall ever having done that.”

The former employee, who has 20 years’ accountancy experience, was also in charge of recording employee expenses. She told the court the process involved checking the receipts against the expense claims before sending them to senior managers to be signed off.

McGonigle denies 13 charges of fraudulent expense claims between September 22, 2008, and March 5, 2010.

The trial continues.