An obscure charity was given permission to use 22 empty units in Cumbernauld Centre but fell foul of council officials amidst claims that it was exploiting a loophole over rents.
It’s now emerged that every empty shop in the older part of the complex was promised to an Uddingston-based company called Scotia Aid.
However the charity now stands accused of trying to skim cash from local authorities across the Central Belt.
Scotia Aid said it wanted to use the defunct shops to store furniture for offices and schools in Sierra Leone which bore the brunt of the Ebola crisis.
Rates were waived in keeping with the organisation’s charitable status.
Soon the council itself became suspicious, amidst claims that Scotia Aid was dodging costs at the expense of council tax payers.
Those suspicions were confirmed when officers announced their intention to visit the units in Cumbernauld.
Their aim was to check that the set-up was on the level.
The charity itself was forced to admit that the units were empty.
A council spokesperson confirmed: “We advised Scotia Aid on July 28 that we intended to visit each unit in the near future to confirm their use for charitable purposes and received a response on July 30 2015 explaining that due to administrative glitches they had not taken up occupancy.
”We have written to the owner for further confirmation of the circumstances surrounding occupation and currently await a response. As yet, we have had no confirmation.
“Business rates relief would only be awarded once our site visits have established that each unit is being used.”