Wrightbus guardian firm gave church £1.35m regardless of disaster

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A completed Bus Eireann bus leaves the Wrightbus plant in Ballymena, Northern IrelandImage copyright PA Media
Image caption Wrightbus was purchased out of administration in October 2019 by the English industrialist Jo Bamford

The guardian firm of Wrightbus made a £1.35m donation to a spiritual charity when the County Antrim bus builder was in deep monetary bother, the BBC’s Spotlight can reveal.

Wrightbus went into administration in September 2019 owing collectors £58m.

In January 2019 its guardian agency Cornerstone made the donation to Green Pastures Church.

Jeff Wright was the controlling shareholder of Cornerstone and a director of the church.

Image caption Clive Grace says the cash paid out within the donation may have been used to assist Wrightbus

A company governance skilled informed Spotlight that for the donation to be made at the moment “raises a conflict of interest which would be very, very severe”.

Clive Grace, a former director-general of the Welsh Audit Commission, stated the cash paid out within the donation may have been made out there to Wrightbus to assist it restructure.

In a press release, Jeff Wright stated the enterprise failed as a result of it skilled “a sudden and unexpected drop-off in orders”.

The wider Wright household stated they’d acted appropriately and lawfully always.

Image caption About 400 individuals are employed on the Wrightbus manufacturing facility in Ballymena

Cornerstone made a collection of huge donations to Green Pastures, principally at a time when the broader Wrights Group was doing properly.

However, Wrights Group administration accounts for 2018 present a pre-tax lack of £13.6m.

The Spotlight programme additionally seems at different transactions within the run-up to the administration that increase questions on how the enterprise was being run.

Wrightbus was purchased out of administration in October final yr by the English industrialist Jo Bamford.

He has been on a recruitment drive since finishing that deal and the manufacturing facility now employs 400 folks.

You can watch Spotlight on BBC One Northern Ireland at 22:35 on Tuesday or watch it on the BBC iPlayer after broadcast.