April 3, 2009 | 6:09 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Call her “Esther” or Madonna and still, the high priestess of Jewish mysticism is wading in troubled waters.
This morning, the Malawian government rejected Madonna’s petition to adopt a second Malawi-born child. The ruling judge said he felt the 4-year-old child, Chifundo “Mercy” James, was being well taken care of in a Malawian orphanage where she was receiving an education and lived near her relatives.
Seriously? An ORPHANAGE better than the life Madonna could provide?
Not so fast. It looks like there may be another reason why the Malawian government is incensed at the Material Girl, and perhaps, used a routine adoption as an opportunity for revenge.
Earlier this week FOX News reported that millions of dollars from Madonna’s 2008 “Raising Malawi” fundraiser had vanished:
Before Madonna ‘adopts’ another child from Malawi, maybe someone should ask her where the money went from her big star studded 2008 fundraiser for that country. We tried: this column has tried to ascertain from The Gucci Foundation and from Madonna’s Kabbalah-backed Raising Malawi, where the estimated $3.7 million has gone from the February 6, 2008 extravaganza. So far: No answers.
The 2008 event, co-sponsored by The Gucci Foundation and UNICEF was a lavish New York City affair. Many of Madonna’s A-list friends were there including fellow Kabbalists Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, as well as offbeat religionists Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.
Celebrities paid $2,500 to $10,000 each to dine on grappa-cured salmon, wild striped bass, tart of goat cheese, foraged mushrooms, truffled mashed potatoes and sticky toffee pudding with creme fraiche…
Tom Cruise bid $100,000 for a sports package that included the privilege of hanging out at Yankee Stadium with Alex Rodriguez and a private hour playing soccer with David Beckham, but lost out to a bidder who ponied up $350,000.
“It was an extraordinary evening. The whole evening was quite moving,” Cruise told The Associated Press, accompanied by his wife, Katie Holmes, who agreed. Cruise called the United Nations “an absolute necessity” because of the staff who dedicate their lives to building peace.
A trip to Paris with a tour of a vineyard and lunch with Francois-Henri Pinault and Salma Hayek went for $120,000. The priciest auction item was a $600,000 winning bid to tour with Madonna and take a dance class with her and Gwyneth Paltrow.
The party was clearly a success, but the benefit part was not. Perhaps the Malawian government doesn’t trust Madonna. They’ve probably been wondering why it has taken over a year to account for all that auction money – and now they’re pissed because it’s still missing.
And then there’s the highfalutin Kabbalah Centre, who is equally responsible. Raising Malawi was co-created by Madonna and Michael Berg, the spiritual guru of The Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles and is described as the organization’s official charitable foundation.
Yet according to the FOX News report, there was trouble at the get-go.
The fundraiser had some problems, however. Even though Raising Malawi had been in business for two years, it was still not approved as a sanctioned non-profit at the time. Instead, Gucci formed its own Foundation — known as a 501 c3 — to collect the money. They brought UNICEF on board to give the event a feeling of legitimacy. But in the end, the efforts expended were for Raising Malawi, an organization founded by the Kabbalah Center of Los Angeles. Raising Malawi teaches the Kabbalah curriculum, called Spirituality for Kids, to Malawi orphans.
Now, fourteen months after the fundraiser, there’s no accounting for the money that came in. At the time, Gucci claimed that they’d underwritten the entire event, that $3.7 million had been raised and that it had been split between Raising Malawi and UNICEF.
But since then, the Gucci Foundation has still not filed a Form 990 tax statement, and neither has Raising Malawi. Calls to Gucci haven’t provided any information, and calls and emails to Raising Malawi haven’t been returned.
In any case, the Kabbalah Centre should be able to answer where the $3.7 million went. But surprise, surprise – they’re not talking either.
Two phone calls I made to The Kabbalah Centre were misdirected. The person with whom I was told to speak had no voicemail. I then called Philippe van den Bossche, the L.A.-based executive director of “Raising Malawi” and was told he is currently traveling. So I emailed Mr. van den Bossche along with the foundation’s public relations contact, and so far…not a word.
Where the money went and why no one is talking is a bit of a mystery. Or really bad PR. Is it mere coincidence that in the same week this report leaked, Madonna’s Malawi adoption was rejected? She didn’t have any trouble a few years ago when she adopted David Banda. In fact, the courts then waived the residency requirement they are now insisting she comply with.
It seems the government feels Madonna’s good intentions with the African country are dubious at best and careless at worst. For her part, Madonna promises to appeal their decision.
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