When NEWSWEEK asked the center’s tax attorney Shane Hamilton how the Kabbalah Centre and Raising Malawi divided the money that was raised for Malawi, he replied: “I don’t know if they have a structure.”
Madonna's Malawi Disaster
Is Kabbalah to blame?
by Wayne Barrett
April 03, 2011
One year ago, Madonna squatted in the rust-colored dirt of a sprawling empty lot outside Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world. With curious villagers and invited photographers crowding around, she laid the ceremonial first brick for a planned $15 million girls’ academy, a noble mission in a nation where only 27 percent of girls attend secondary school. In a blog post on the website of her Raising Malawi foundation, she wrote that the brick, inscribed with the words “Dare to Dream,” was “not just the bedrock to a school—it is a foundation for our shared future.”
Last week it was announced that the future would not be built. Despite the fundraising success of Raising Malawi, which collected a reported $18 million in donations and spent $3.8 million on the planned academy, the girls’ school has been abandoned and the Raising Malawi foundation has imploded...
The explanation prompts more questions than it answers.
If the center was holding millions in Raising Malawi funding since 2006, why didn’t it transfer the funds when Raising Malawi ran deficits in 2009 and 2010?
And what about 2008, when the foundation had its best fundraising year, finishing with a half-million-dollar surplus, yet the center listed a $1.8 million liability from Raising Malawi on its IRS filings? How could there be a liability if it was the center that in fact owed Raising Malawi the millions it had collected over the prior two years?
When NEWSWEEK asked the center’s tax attorney Shane Hamilton how the Kabbalah Centre and Raising Malawi divided the money that was raised for Malawi, he replied: “I don’t know if they have a structure.” This fluid “intercompany debt,” as one Neilson aide described it, reinforces the charges made by critics that the center used Malawi as a fundraising tool, and that there is no way to independently determine what was really done in the name of its orphans...