By Geoff Fox ONE OF the region's wealthiest Asian businessmen has announced substantial backing for Yorkshire's life-saving air ambulance.
Mumtaz Khan, chairman of Mumtaz Food Industries Ltd and the third richest Asian businessman in Yorkshire, will fund Yorkshire Air Ambulance to the tune of 2,000 a month – for the foreseeable future.
The multi-millionaire is also organising an event in his home city of Bradford to encourage other Asian businessmen to back the cause.
At a launch event held yesterday at Mr Mumtaz's renowned Mumtaz Restaurant in Bradford, he said: "For many months my brother and I have been looking to fund a worthwhile cause that we could form a long term association with and that benefits the community we all live in.
"For us that cause is Yorkshire Air Ambulance."
Now in its fourth year, the YAA is the fourth busiest service in England and Wales, covering all 3.9 million acres of Yorkshire.
Relying entirely on charitable donations, the service needs 1m each year to survive.
Mr Mumtaz added: "We have always given a percentage of our takings to charity. Most of the time you send to big organisations, but don't really know where the money's gone.
"One of my friends told me about the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and straight away it clicked. I went to see them at Leeds Bradford airport and saw what fantastic work they were doing.
"It was instantly 'yes, this is where I want my money to go'."
The gesture was warmly welcomed by Martin Eede, YAA's chief executive, who said: "We are absolutely thrilled. We have opened the door to a very important business community.
"The fact that Mr Mumtaz is now going to be addressing the Bradford Asian business community is wonderful news."
The Golden Wings appeal will help to fund the purchase of a new helicopter, hopefully later this year, which will replace the current Bolkow 105.
Mr Eede added: "We currently have a helicopter that is 15 years old and, frankly, is coming to the end of its sell-by date. We have had to spend 100,000 in the last 12 months on unscheduled maintenance.
"We want a new generation aircraft that will fly further, for longer and with more room for paramedics and which will totally revolutionise the way we serve people throughout Yorkshire."
Anyone interested in supporting the charity can contact 0845 120 6060.
... and slots more help on way
Mumtaz Khan announced another major fundraising project at yesterday's launch that will also benefit the air ambulance.
Businesses and leisure centres are being encouraged to install vending machines selling one of his firm's most successful products – lassi yoghurt drinks.
Every penny raised through the sale of drinks bought from the vending machines will go straight to the air ambulance.
As well as stocking the machines, Mr Mumtaz's firm is even offering to pay for the electricity to power them.
"We want this to be totally transparent," said Mr Khan. "We will be setting up a separate company and any member of the public who buys one of our Mumtaz Lassi drinks will be able to see the accounts and see where every pound has gone."
He added he was hoping the scheme would raise thousands each year.
"Whether I'm here today or gone tomorrow, I hope this will go on forever. I hope this vending venture grows."