Accessibility links

Breaking News

'Three Cups Of Tea' Author To Pay $1 Million After Court Probe

American writer Greg Mortenson with Nowseri schoolchildren in Pakistan's Azad Kashmir area.
American writer Greg Mortenson with Nowseri schoolchildren in Pakistan's Azad Kashmir area.
U.S. author Greg Mortenson, who wrote the best-selling book "Three Cups of Tea," has agreed to pay his charity $1 million following a court probe into financial mismanagement.

Mortenson, who co-founded the charity Central Asia Institute (CAI) that builds schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, also agreed to resign from his charity's board for "financial transgressions."

The court probe was conducted by the attorney general of the western U.S. state of Montana, where the charity is located.

It followed public claims by some former associates of Mortenson that he fabricated several dramatic scenes in his best selling books and used his charity for his own enrichment.

Mortenson's inspirational books about his experiences building schools in northern Pakistan and northwestern Afghanistan have inspired millions of people to make donations to CAI.

But the probe found he made inadequate distinctions between the donated money and his own personal income.

In one case, the charity spent nearly $2 million on charter flights to maintain Mortenson's busy speaking schedule, even though he kept most of the speaking fees he earned for his personal use.

'Worthwhile Work'

The investigation also found vast amounts of money were spent overseas without supporting receipts and other documentation, indicating a significant lack of financial accountability by both Mortenson and his charity.

Nonetheless, the court probe concluded that the CAI has done worthwhile work in building schools and that "despite the severity of their errors, CAI is worth saving."

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock told reporters, "The humanitarian efforts of Greg Mortenson and CAI are impressive, and even the greatest detractors would admit that together they've accomplished a tremendous amount to further education in Pakistan and Afghanistan."

CAI has helped communities build over 180 schools, and supports 56 more. It has also helped build 30 women's vocational centers.

A US television network (CBS) last year said that many of the schools CAI claims to run never actually opened. But the court probe did not delve into that issue, leaving the questions unanswered.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
  • 16x9 Image


    RFE/RL journalists report the news in 27 languages in 23 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.