Risk Management

Nonprofit Destroyed by Accountant’s Love Life

The Helsinki Federation for Human Rights shuts down after an ex-finance manager is convicted for embezzling to support his mistress.
Stephen TaubJanuary 9, 2008

A human rights group was forced to shut down after a court convicted its former finance manager of embezzling $1.8 million to support his mistress.

On Tuesday a court in Vienna sentenced the 43-year-old ex-accountant of the Helsinki Federation for Human Rights to three years in jail and his girlfriend to two years, the Associated Press reported. Their names were not immediately available.

“The crime went undetected due to weaknesses in the financial oversight and management practices of the IHF,” the group said in a statement on its website back in November.

The scheme took place over a six-year period, according to the AP. The finance executive steered money into his bank account under the guise of financing human rights projects and used the group’s ATM card for personal purposes, the wire service said.

The mistress reportedly gambled away up to $7,000 a week at poker and once told the finance executive she needed $44,000 to open a hair salon. She also spent some of the money for breast augmentation and a nose job, according to the report.

The man told the court his mistress promised to pay him back in part from a huge inheritance she had expected to receive.

The group said on its website that on January 30, a liquidator will present the final results of his efforts to the Commercial Court, which then will decide on the final liquidation of the organization.

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights is an international, nongovernmental organization that seeks to promote compliance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Final Act, with international legal obligations undertaken in the Council of Europe and the United Nations, and with human rights norms promoted by the European Union.

The IHF mandate is to protect and strengthen civil society groups that monitor and report on human rights issues from a non-partisan perspective, and to bring them together on a common international platform.