UK watchdog launches probe into wildlife trust that employs Boris Johnson’s partner Carrie Symonds

Investigation to look into concerns over finances at Aspinall Foundation

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 14: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds stand outside the door of number 10 Downing Street as they thank the key workers who are working during the current lockdown on May 14, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. Following the success of  the "Clap for Our Carers" campaign, members of the public are being encouraged to applaud NHS staff and other key workers from their homes at 8pm every Thursday. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has infected over 4 million people across the world, claiming at least  33,614 lives in the U.K. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The UK's aid watchdog launched an inquiry into a wildlife trust that employs the prime minister’s fiancee Carrie Symonds.

The Charity Commission is investigating the Aspinall Foundation and the Howlett’s Wild Animal Trust, which have linked trustees, over concerns of “governance and financial management”.

Ms Symonds, who is engaged to Boris Johnson, joined the foundation this year as head of communications.

The investigation, which began last July, is examining claims of “unauthorised trustee benefit” and whether trustees “have complied with and fulfilled their duties and responsibilities under charity law”.

The foundation was set up in 1984 by animal enthusiast John Aspinall, and runs breeding sanctuaries for endangered animals.

A separate inquiry was announced into the management of Howlett’s Wild Animal Trust, which runs wildlife parks in Kent, south-east England.

Both charities are chaired by socialite Damian Aspinall.

“The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into the Aspinall Foundation over serious concerns about the charity’s governance and financial management," the regulator said.

“The inquiry will examine the administration, governance and management of the charity by the trustees with specific regard to how conflicts of interest have been dealt with and managed, whether or not there has been any unauthorised trustee benefit and whether or not the trustees have complied with and fulfilled their duties and responsibilities under charity law.”

The foundation has launched an independent internal review.

“The Aspinall Foundation remains firmly committed to its ethical and legal duties as a charitable body," it said.

“Our trustees will continue to work openly and transparently with the Charity Commission to ensure best practice governance and compliance.”

The Charity Commission began an investigation into Howlett’s Wild Animal Trust in December 2019.