Used clothing is a big money-earner for charities and for-profit companies alike. Donation bins (called ‘collection banks’ in the UK) seem to be on every street corner or parking lot these days. Across the United States and throughout western Europe, several donation bin operations stand out because they expand so quickly or they are unusually persistent in seeking sites for new containers.
‘Humana People-to-People’ (HPP) collects used clothes in Europe. In Scandinavia, HPP is known as ‘Ulandshjælp fra Folk til Folk’ (UFF). In the UK, ‘Planet Aid’ is a not-for-profit, limited liability company, while its counterpart in the USA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organisation. ‘DAPP UK’ is a charity, while ‘Green World Recycling’, also UK-based, is privately owned. All collect clothes, they say, ‘to help the Third World’.
In the USA, two companies have placed thousands of boxes in aid of the environment and to promote recycling: USAgain, which is a for-profit company, and ‘Gaia Movement USA’, a nonprofit. Confusingly, the UK also has a related Gaia Movement used clothing charity.
Two other organisations have a smaller U.S. presence in certain regions: ‘Recycle for Change’ in the San Francisco Bay area, and ‘One World Center’ (formerly ‘IICD’) in Michigan and Massachusetts.
All these companies and charities are secretly run by an alleged cult called the Tvind Teachers Group. Five leaders of the Teachers Group (TG), the controlling body of the broader Tvind organisation, are Interpol fugitives wanted in their native Denmark for serious financial crimes.
There are dozens of other intermediary companies and, under various names, the TG also runs its own profit-oriented businesses and shops selling second-hand clothes in Russia, eastern Europe, South America, Africa and China.
Most of the above entities can be linked to the TG’s extensive network of secret offshore bank accounts. All together, it makes the TG possibly the world’s largest collector and reseller of used clothing.
The profits are staggering — tens of millions of dollars annually. But where does all the money go?
Our research strongly suggests that a large percentage of the handsome return from donated goods ends up in the TG’s offshore accounts. Then it’s used to buy property or invest in business. Like organised financial criminals, the TG invests in ‘legitimate business’ to disguise the source of its wealth.
The TG’s clandestine network of offshore holding companies in tax havens, and nominee directors, is designed to retain the proceeds from used clothes sales, as well as revenue from all the other branches of the ‘TG Economy’.
Powerful testimony over many years indicates that the TG has used this secret network to minimise the amount of money going to its ‘charities’ and to maximise the amount it passes to its own offshore accounts. And to avoid tax.
We have established that the TG has used several classic money laundering scams to siphon off money from its ‘charity’ side. One is ‘transfer pricing manipulation’: the TG owns a clothing broker — the Atlanta, Georgia-based Garson & Shaw — and controls many clothes collection companies in different countries. By selling the goods at inflated prices to its own partners in tax haven countries and territories, it can make enormous profits and divert cash away from foreign aid.
The ‘used clothes laundry’ is undoubtedly a significant part of the TG’s ‘money-go-round’ between offshore companies, charities and businesses in its international financial empire — and it has yet to be fully investigated.
Rumours of financial impropriety in the TG’s nonprofit empire have long persisted. In 1996-7 the UK Charity Commission closed down Humana People-to-People UK, after investigating its financial affairs in the UK and Zambia. Our own investigations have led us to a whistle-blower, once employed as a bookkeeper for the TG in the Netherlands, who has provided written evidence of double accounting, fraud and financial malfeasance designed to loot funds from TG charity clothing collections. His story is here
Are used clothing donations to the enterprises listed here helping protect the environment or anyone in the Third World? Or are they really making a fat profit for international fugitives?