REVEALED Goal staff set up private company to profit from aid business.

By Michael O’Farrell

Investigations Editor

A PRIVATE firm set up by senior managers of Irish charity Goal is being investigated over irregularities with aid to Syria, the Irish Mail on Sunday can reveal.

The UK firm, called Noble House Business PLC Ltd, operates an aid supply facility for non-government organisations (NGOs) in Antakya in southern Turkey.

Goal’s procurement base for Syria is also in Antakya and the region is a major focus of an ongoing US Agency for International Development (USAid) investigation into procurement irregularities.

Noble House was established in 2013 with three senior Goal insiders as directors and shareholders. The three included;

  • Jonathan Edgar, Goal’s current Chief Operating Officer.
  • Jeremy Cole, Goal’s then head of risk, audit and compliance.
  • Ernest Halilov who was then a senior logistics manager with Goal

Mr Halilov resigned his directorship in Noble House in November 2013. Jonathan Godson, a twin of a current member of the Goal UK board, was also a founding shareholder.

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Goal boss Jonathan Edgar – Founding member and shareholder of Noble House – severed his links with the business.

Godson, Cole and Edgar were also associated with two further Noble House companies, one Irish and one British, that shut down without trading in 2014 and 2015.

Goal confirmed it became aware of ‘the involvement of its staff in a private firm that provided support services to the NGO sector’ several months after the Noble House business was created.

‘Goal immediately made it clear that involvement by staff with potential service providers was not acceptable,’ the charity told the MoS in a statement.

As a result Mr Edgar, who had already been in the process of severing his connections to Noble House, remained an employee of Goal. He has now risen to become acting Chief Operations Officer. Mr Edgar is a former partner of RTÉ presenter Claire Byrne.

In its statement Goal said Mr Cole and the other employee ‘decided to depart Goal to avoid any potential conflict of interest, or perceived conflict of interest.’

Goal said it then implemented a ’12-month cooling-off period during which it had no engagement with Noble House’.

After that ‘any potential engagement would be on an arms length basis as with any other third party provider… and in full compliance with the charity’s conflict of interest policy.’

Last night Goal said it ‘did not engage with Noble House in Syria or for any procurements.’

However the MoS has confirmed that Noble House and its procurement activities in Turkey – related to aid for neighbouring Syria – does form part of the USAid investigation.

Goal confirmed that after the conclusion of the cooling off period relating to Noble House it began paying individuals and entities associated with the company. According to Goal these payments came to ‘circa €90,000’ last year.

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The impact of cancelled aid sent bread prices spiralling.

The MoS has confirmed that these payments included a monthly retainer of €5,000 paid to one of the former Goal employees now associated with Noble House. The MoS understands this retainer, paid for seven months until it was suspended in April, was related to services provided by this individual in Turkey.

Other payments from Goal to Noble House individuals or entities included €12,000 paid to a company called Red Rose. This is a newly established firm fronted by Jeremy Cole which is 50% owned by Noble House. It specialises in payment systems for the distribution of aid supplies.

According to the latest company filings, the sole shareholder of Noble House is ‘banker’ Jonathan Godson, a low-profile broker understood to be based in New York. A London address which Jonathan Godson lists as his residence on Noble House files is, according to UK Land Registry, co-owned by Andrew Godson, his twin brother.

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The Irish Mail on Sunday – May 8, 2016

Andrew Godson is a prominent London-based investment banker with Babson Capital. He was appointed to the UK board of Goal in July 2013 – within days of Noble House being incorporated with Jonathan Godson as a shareholder.

The MoS asked Andrew Godson if there was any link between his appointment to the UK board of Goal and the incorporation of Noble House with his brother as a shareholder a number of days earlier. We also asked if he ever believed it necessary to declare his familial relationship with Jonathan Godson to Goal.

In response he said his role as a board member was ‘voluntary and unpaid’ and was ‘focused on ensuring the governance and financial responsibility of Goal UK.’

‘As a Director of Goal UK I do not have oversight of programme management or procurement. Goal (Ireland) are responsible for the direct management of all humanitarian and development operations. All relevant interests were properly declared,’ he said.

Goal also said there was no relationship between Andrew Godson’s appointment to the UK board and the creation of Noble House.

Since the suspension of some of Goal’s USAid funds, the charity has sought to distance itself from the American investigation. ‘Goal is not under investigation – there is a wider investigation involving a number of parties,’ CEO Barry Andrews has said.

That message was repeated by Goal last night. ‘Goal is not the focus of this investigation nor is a UK board member. Goal is one of a number of parties co-operating with a broader Office of Inspector General investigation.’

Irish Mail on Sunday - May 8, 2016.

Irish Mail on Sunday – May 8, 2016.

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