BLM organiser denies fraud charges related to Colston protest

A Black Lives Matter organiser has pleaded not guilty to fraud charges relating to fundraising pages set up around the time of the demonstration in Bristol that ended with a statue of Edward Colston being toppled into the city’s harbour.

Xahra Saleem, 22, of Briars Walk, Romford, east London, appeared at Bristol Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday accused of two counts of fraud by abuse of position.

The Colston statue was pushed into Bristol harbour on June 7 2020 during protests related to the death of George Floyd in the US, and the subsequent global BLM movement.

Saleem is said to have been one of the organisers of the protest and had set up a crowdfunding page to raise money for face masks and other equipment to help facilitate the march legally, given it was taking place at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic.

An agreement is said to have been made that any excess funds would go to Bristol-based charity Changing Your Mindset Ltd.

Following the protest, which gained world-wide attention, the page raised tens of thousands of pounds, however none of the money is alleged to have arrived with the charity.

Xahra Saleem court case
Xahra Saleem, 22, has pleaded not guilty to the charges against her (Ben Birchall/PA)

The defendant is also said to have set up a fundraising page following the protest to raise money for the legal costs of those facing charges.

Those funds are again said to have not been handed over.

The charges say that on June 24 2020 at 15 High Ground, Tadpole Garden Village, Swindon, Wiltshire, Saleem committed fraud in that, while occupying a position, namely director, in which she was expected to safeguard, or not act against, the financial interests of Changing Your Mindset Ltd, she dishonestly abused that position intending thereby to make a gain, namely used the funds raised for herself contrary to section 1 and 4 of the the Fraud Act 2006.

Then on June 29 2020 at the same address Saleem committed fraud in that, while occupying a position, namely organiser, in which she was expected to safeguard, or not act against, the financial interests of the ABL Bristol, she dishonestly abused that position intending thereby to make a gain, namely used the funds raised for yourself contrary to section 1 and 4 of the the Fraud Act 2006.

Saleem was taken into court wearing a black niqab and long navy blue trench coat and spoke only to confirm her name, address and date of birth, and state her not guilty pleas.

District Judge Lynne Matthews told the defendant that due to the seriousness of the case it would have to be dealt with at the crown court.

Saleem will next appear at Bristol Crown Court on January 30 2023.