Shane Warne has said he is shutting down his charitable foundation, blaming "unwarranted speculation" about its financial and regulatory problems for the closure.
'Nothing to hide at the Shane Warne Foundation'
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'Nothing to hide at the Shane Warne Foundation'
In November 2015, former Australian cricketer Shane Warne denied claims his foundation was under investigation by Consumer Affairs over its accounting practices.
The move comes as The Shane Warne Foundation undergoes an independent audit ordered by Consumer Affairs Victoria after the philanthropic group repeatedly failed to provide "sufficient" information about its financial affairs to the regulator.
The closure also comes as the foundation continues to flout a state fundraising disclosure law that requires it to release more than a decade's worth of financial reports to Fairfax Media.
The cricketing legend made the announcement on Friday afternoon.
"Today, as The Shane Warne Foundation officially announces it is ceasing operations and has begun the process of closing the Foundation, we will celebrate so many incredible achievements," Warne said in a statement released via social media.
The foundation said that since 2004 it had distributed $3.67 million to charities such as the Starlight Foundation and to the families of seriously ill children.
Fairfax Media has previously revealed the foundation has been spending up to 86 per cent of the money it raises for charity on expenses associated with staging lavish, star-studded events such as gala dinners, cricket matches and poker tournaments.
Warne, who has repeatedly said the foundation had "nothing to hide", provided no explanation for the closure except to say it was in response to "recent, unwarranted speculation" about its operations.
Fairfax Media revealed last week that Warne had been planning to shut the charity and blame its closure on media coverage about its poor financial performance and lack of transparency.
But a source close to the foundation said there has been significant disquiet among the charity's sponsors, ambassadors and board members about its financial and transparency issues.
The consumer watchdog began "monitoring" the foundation last year after flagging "inconsistencies" in its reporting and accounting practices.
In November, amid mounting problems, the foundation's board – which includes Eddie McGuire, Seek.com founder Andrew Bassat, Crown executive Ann Peacock, and TV personality Glenn Robbins – had promised a major shake-up to its operations.
But newly appointed chief executive officer Emma Coleman resigned her position the week before Christmas amid concerns the restructure plans announced by the board were misleading donors and sponsors.
Shortly afterwards, Consumer Affairs Victoria ordered an independent audit be conducted of the foundation to ensure money it received in recent years has been "properly accounted for and applied" in compliance with state fundraising laws.
A number of major sponsors and a celebrity ambassador also stopped supporting the foundation in recent weeks.
Fairfax Media understands Consumer Affairs Victoria had not been notified in advance about its closure by representatives of the foundation.
The announcement comes as Warne is expected to depart for South Africa to participate in reality TV show I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! this weekend.
Warne is believed to be receiving $2 million to be a contestant on the show.
He recently cancelled the signature fundraising event for the foundation, the 8th Annual Joe Hachem & Shane Warne Charity Poker Tournament, which was scheduled to take place at the same time.
In his announcement, Warne pledged that at least another $330,000 would be distributed to charity by March 18.
There would be no further comment, he said.
The Shane Warne Foundation has been refusing to comply with a request to release its complete annual financial records made by Fairfax Media under state fundraising laws. It has been in breach of the law since January 6.
The foundation had also previously attempted to have its financial records declared confidential by the national charities regulator under a legal exemption that has been used by domestic violence charities to protect their privacy and security.
A spokesperson for Consumer Affairs Victoria said they were "aware of reports in the media that The Shane Warne Foundation has announced it is ceasing its operations".
They said an audit requested in December of the foundation's fundraising activities for the past three-and-a-half-years "must be conducted by a registered company auditor and is scheduled for completion by 29 February 2016".