Gigi Ethiopia Designer
Millions of pounds raised by Live Aid and Band Aid was spent on weapons, it was claimed last night.
Sir Bob Geldof's efforts, including the chart-topping single, Do They Know It's Christmas, and the Live Aid concert at Wembley, raised £40million for those starving in Ethiopia.
Other charities raised £23million for the relief effort.
Gebremedhin Araya, left, handling bundles of money, said: 'I was given clothes to make me look like a Muslim merchant'
A starving family in a famine-ravaged village in Ethiopia at the height of the disaster in 1985
But although millions of lives were saved by the Western aid that poured into the country, it is now claimed that not all of cash went to the most needy.
Of the £63million that flowed into the country in 1985, it is claimed just 5 per cent was spent on famine relief, with the rest going on weapons and attempts to overthrow the government.
But last night Sir Bob said there was 'no evidence' of this, and urged people to 'keep on giving'.
The extraordinary claims have been made by former rebels, who told a BBC investigation they posed as merchants in meetings with charity workers to get aid money. Insurgents would dress up and show sacks filled with sand, rather than grain, to ensure they were handed millions of pounds.
Christian Aid worker Max Peberdy carried nearly £300,000 in Ethiopian currency across the border from Sudan in 1984 to buy grain from men he believed were Ethiopian farmers.
He counted out bundles of money while representatives of the Relief Society of Tigray (REST) - the humanitarian arm of the rebel party - looked on.
Simon LeBon, Sting, Bob Geldoff, Bono and others at the recording session for Band AID in 1984
Mr Peberdy said: 'As far as we were concerned and as far as we were told by REST, the people we were dealing with were merchants.'
But one merchant he gave cash to claims he was a senior member of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).
Gebremedhin Araya, who lives in exile in Australia, said: 'I was given clothes to make me look like a Muslim merchant. This was a trick.
'They came, I showed them 10,000 quintals of grain. The front side is the grain, the other side is full of sacks of sand.'
The money Mr Peberdy gave him was passed on to TPLF leaders, including - it is claimed - Meles Zenawi, who became Ethiopia's prime minister in 1991 after the rebel army overthrew the Marxist government.
Former TPLF commander-Aregawi Berhe made the allegations to the BBC's Assignment: Aid for Arms in Ethiopia investigation, which will be broadcast on World Service tonight.
Mr Berhe, who lives in exile in Holland, said when the northern province of Tigray was hit by famine in 1985, 'aid money was flowing'.
But of the £63million that went through the hands of the TPLF, 95 per cent was allocated either to buy weapons or build the ideological wing of the party, it is claimed.
Bob Geldof visiting a camp in Ethiopia which sheltered victims of the famine after the Live Aid concerts in 1985. More than a million people died during the famine
He added: 'We were using aid money to buy arms through secondary means. If you come to the Middle East you can buy arms, so we were using some of the money to buy arms.'
His claims seem to be backed up by recently declassified CIA documents which confirm insurgents were 'using the famine and relief efforts for their own purposes'.
They said: 'Some funds that insurgent organisations are raising for relief operations, as a result of increased world publicity, are almost certainly being diverted for military purposes.'
Last night the Band Aid Trust released a statement which said 'money raised was well spent'.
It said: 'It is quite incorrect to say that the bulk of the money was spent on arms or building the party, there is no evidence for this apart from the uncorroborated claims of a disgruntled ex-TPLF fighter who is clearly marginalised from his former colleagues.'
It added: 'The public should not think that the money they so generously contributed to one of the poorest countries in the world was misused or given in vain. The public should go on giving.'
One million people died in the famine, which was exacerbated by civil war. Shocking images from Ethiopia resulted in more than three million copies of Do They Know It's Christmas selling in just five weeks in late 1984.
This led to Live Aid in July 1985, with concerts held simultaneously at Wembley and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. The event was watched by an estimated 400million viewers in 60 countries.
Charities Save the Children and Christian Aid said they always monitored where aid funds went.
Nick Guttmann, director of emergency relief operations at Christian Aid, said: 'Both the rebels and the government were using innocent civilians to further their own political ends.
'But that is not what humanitarian agencies like ourselves were doing. We were there to help the people in the greatest need and did so.'