UK BLM Leader Admits Fraud After £30K Goes Missing From COVID Fundraiser

Jack Hadfield

Black Lives Matter protest organizer Xahra Saleem has pleaded guilty to fraud following a controversy in which £30,000 (approx. $36,000 USD) raised from donations to a BLM-linked fund went missing.

Saleem, formerly known as Yvonne Maina, was involved in organizing the 2020 BLM protests in Bristol, which ended with the toppling of the statue of philanthropist and slave-trader Edward Colston. The protests first began in the United States following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but quickly spread worldwide as international BLM groups emerged.

According to an investigation by Avon and Somerset Police, Saleem had set up a page on GoFundMe called “BristBLM” in order to raise money for face masks. Saleem also made an appeal for funds to acquire “other equipment” necessary to stop the police from shutting down the protests for going against COVID restrictions at the time.

However, after tens of thousands of dollars were raised from donors worldwide, irregularities were noticed. Excess money that was earmarked for youth charity Changing Your Mindset, an organization which send teenagers on activist trips to Africa, was never sent.

Saleem was charged with fraud by abuse of position, initially pleading not guilty at Bristol Crown Court. This week, she changed her plea and admitted to the count of fraud related to the siphoning of money away from the charity for her own use. 

A second fraud charge, related to a fundraising page called “Bristol Protesters Legal Fees,” was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Saleem is set to be sentenced at the end of October.

“It is devastating that some of our young people are no longer with us to see the justice that the team at Changing Your Mindset lost sleep and worked hard to get. Often, we were wrongfully judged as thieves, by people expected to support us,” said a spokesman for Changing Your Mindset, which has since shut down.

“The theft and overall lack of support hindered the staff and the young people in accessing the services delivered to them, eventually resulting in Changing Your Mindset sadly closing a year later. We are now taking some time to process the information we have now received that the perpetrator will finally be held accountable.”

In June, a fraud lawsuit against the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation was dismissed. Local grassroots activists had argued that spending millions of dollars donated to the fund on personal salaries, and a $6 million LA mansion, was not what the money was intended to be used for.

Judge Stephanie Bowick said the activists failed to prove that they were entitled to the raised funds, or that there was any fraud by misrepresentation.

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