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$1.3m alleged scam hits outdoor advertiser  

Thursday, 12 April 2018
By Print 21 Online Article

(l-r) Walking Wounded founder Brian Freeman with Brendon Nelson, director of Australian War Memorial.

Queensland Police are investigating an allegedly fraudulent charity group called Walking Wounded that received $1 million in free advertising from outdoor advertiser oOh!media.

The group was founded by ex-serviceman Brian Freeman with the stated aim of helping to rehabilitate army veterans returning from Afghanistan with mental and physical issues, and providing aid to families of those killed in action.

In 2016, Walking Wounded won oOh!media’s Million Dollar Pitch competition and received $1 million worth of free advertising on oOh!media billboards to promote its cause.

However, a report by ABC’s 7.30 alleges that Freeman misappropriated $1.3 million in donations for his own personal use.

After a number of complaints from victim’s families, Walking Wounded was stripped of its charity status by the federal charities regulator. Afghanistan war veterans accused Freeman of spending thousands of dollars in donations on adventure treks.

Egg producer Sunny Queen Eggs told 7.30 the company ended its association with Walking Wounded in 2016 – after donating $300,000 in cash – because it had become “increasingly concerned about the lack of detail supplied by Mr Freeman about exactly how the funds were being utilised, and the lack of specific details about soldiers who had benefitted from Walking Wounded’s help.” 

When 7.30 contacted Freeman by phone in Nepal – where he’s reportedly leading an Everest expedition for a group of business clients – he denied misusing donations. “I don’t want to be part of a witch hunt or a he-said, she-said, they said. No.”

The 7.30 report alleges Freeman has launched a new commercial venture – Freeman High Performance – that promotes itself using an endorsement from the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, who is quoted as describing Freeman as the “archetypal doer – cheerful, wise, honest and determined with a great social conscience.”

The Governor-General’s office says he did not approve of any such testimonial and had repeatedly asked Freeman to remove the statement.

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