The curious tale of Stephen Lennon’s “charity” partnership

Sarah Archibald - 14 11 17

Last night an online “news” outlet called The London Post breathlessly announced that Stephen Yaxley-Lennon had been appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador to an arts charity.

The London Post reported that the co-founder of the English Defence League (EDL) and possessor of serial criminal convictions is now, apparently, overseeing a £100,000 arts fund. This would be administered on behalf of the MMBF Trust, which also trades as the Matthew Martino Benevolent Fund.

This, the London Post stated, is an “international arts charity”. It went on to claim that the “announcement has already been widely welcomed on social media.”

Breaking “news” on the London Post

It added that that the man also known as Tommy Robinson is a “best selling author” and quoted the MMBF website which named him as “a keen supporter of the world of media and arts.”

Yaxley-Lennon, naturally, took to social media to announce this hugely prestigious appointment.

His followers lapped it up. Apparently this would leave the media stumped, what with him now being a leading charity figure, and not, as previously assumed, a money-grubbing hate preacher.

I don’t think HOPE Not Hate were alone in thinking this tale was a bit curious. We did some digging.

Our first port of call was the Charities Commission where a quick search for both the MMBF Trust and Matthew Martino yielded nothing.

You’d think that an international arts charity with £100k to splash on “creatives and artists” would be on the Commission’s books. After all, if you call yourself a charity, then you must, by law.

So then we went to Companies House where we did find MMBF Ltd., a Harlow based outfit whose sole officer is one Mathete Chihwai. According to Matthew Martino’s Wikipedia page, he and Mathete are one and the same.

Mathete is a busy little company director. His other businesses include ESTV Mag Ltd, Essex TV Ltd. and Lets Fly Academy Ltd.

Fake news

Curiouser still, the MMBF Trust claims as a partner, the regional online news outlet, the Sussex Chronicle. This is apparently part of something called the 2 Trom News Group, an entity which seems not to exist as an actual business entity, just a Twitter account.

According to that Twitter account, 2 Trom also publishes something called the Brit Daily, Northern News UK and the Hertfordshire Herald.

The good news is that whilst 2 Trom doesn’t appear to have done anything so corporate as to register as a business, it has been endorsed by another media outlet.

The bad news is that outlet is the aforementioned Essex TV.

A brief browse across the lower regions of the internet reveals 2 Trom claiming other titles such as the Essex Star, Empire News UK and Eyewitness Reporter.

An Essex Star report names a Lewis Drazen as chair of this media empire. Companies House has no such director listed.

Brazen Drazen

Then, on it’s pretty freshly minted Wikipedia entry, it’s co-owner is named as one Matthew C Martino. Confirming an emerging trend, that same page uses as citations, links to its own dubious titles.

Martino, or whoever drafted his Wiki page, was slightly – but only slightly – more cunning, stating that:

In July 2017 Manchester Evening News reported that Martino had donated £10,000 to a Manchester creative fund to support artists, filmmakers and creative’s from Manchester.”

No, the MEN did not report that. The MEN ran some paid-for content. It’s still there.

The 2 Trom Wikipedia entry also says the group publishes 11 titles and employs 70 staff.

If you’re an admirer of chutzpah then you’ll like too how it notes how “Lewis Drazen caused outrage when he seemed to suggest that “fake news is bigger than the real news” in a magazine interview.” The citation link is to the Essex Star.

It’s bold chicanery, albeit undone by an overwhelmingly amateurish execution.

A brief recap

So, are you with me so far?

Essex TV, of which Matthew Martino is a director, has endorsed the Matthew Martino Benevolent Fund, a charity which is not registered with the Charity Commission.

However there is an MMBF Ltd which, presumably, has the £100k which will be distributed by cultural champion Stephen Yaxley Lennon to needy arts folk.

As an added detail, MMBF’s last figures for the year ended 31st October 2016 – filed as a micro entity – show it has total net assets of just £16,443.

Show us the money.

There’s one thing I forgot to mention. 2 Trom also claims ownership of the London Post, the news outlet which broke the  story of Lennon’s appointment as a Goodwill Ambassador to the Matthew Martino Benevolent Trust.

What’s more, this august organ claims as its features editor, one Matt Martino.  He even get his own byline and, like Paul Joseph Watson, gets to write about cool stuff such as food supplements.

What an amazing coincidence!

It looks very much like a proverbial house of cards, each vague and over-inflated entity propping up another. When one falls, so do the rest.

It’s certainly a curious tale which raises more questions than answers.

Perhaps the first task for Yaxley Lennon in his new role might then be to explain just what the hell is going on. It would show goodwill that, ambassador.


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