Britain’s Charity Commission has indicted the Board of Trustees of Christ Embassy in the United Kingdom over fraudulent practices including illegally paying more than N827 million (£1,767,250) to organisations it shares close relationships with.
The indictment came after a five-year investigation of the UK branch of the church which was founded in 1996 by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome and has over 90 worship centres across the UK.
In 2014, the Charity Commission, which regulates charities in England and Wales, announced it was opening a statutory inquiry to investigate Christ Embassy over “a number of serious concerns relating to the use of charitable funds, in particular, large connected party payments and the potential misapplication of grant funding.”
The outcome of the inquiry was published in details by the Commission on its website last month and it showed how the church’s board of trustees grossly mismanaged the church’s account and failed to comply with its grant-making policy.
Media contacted Pastor Arinze Emmanuels, the head of the legal department through a text message to respond to the report but at press time, there was no response.
During the inquiry, the Charity Commission discovered that the church illegally registered three properties in the names of two members of its board of trustees, failed to pay taxes worth over £250,000 on expenditures by employees, failed to secure adequate insurance, and violated Britain’s town planning and building regulations.
The investigation identified nine active bank accounts, which the church’s board of trustees claimed was holding funds belonging to Christ Embassy Nigeria, a separate entity from Christ Embassy UK. However, there was no evidence that the banks holding the funds were aware they were holding funds belonging to Christ Embassy Nigeria.
The report stated that the accounts were not named in a sure way to indicate that the funds were controlled from Nigeria. In fact, two of the nine active accounts were named “Christ Embassy East London”. Thus, the inquiry placed a freezing order on the funds (£615,420.00) in the account.
“The inquiry, not being satisfied that the funds held in these accounts were owned by Christ Embassy Nigeria, exercised legal powers and issued orders dated 8 august 2014, under section 76(3)(d) of the Act, freezing six of these nine bank accounts, protecting funds to a value of £615,420.
“In the absence of clear evidence to support the trustees’ position, the Inquiry concluded that funds held in the accounts belonged to the charity and these accounts remained frozen until the order was revoked on 24 August 2016. The Inquiry being satisfied that the new board of trustees had assumed control of the charity’s property discharged the freezing order on 24 August 2016.”
After going through the records and books of the church for a year and interviewing members of the church’s board of trustees, the commission sidelined the board and appointed Rod Weston of the international audit and accounting firm, Mazar, as interim manager (IM) to take over the management of the church in what it described as “temporary and protective measure.”
The interim manager stated in the report that the scope of the inquiry was to examine the church’s transactions with “partner organisations” including “grants made to a number of unidentified entities and Loveworld Television Ministry, Healing School, International School of Ministry, Christ Embassy France, Christ Embassy Canada, IPCC Conference and Rhapsody of Realities.
“The Inquiry concluded that there was serious misconduct and/or mismanagement in the charity’s administration. The former trustees, at the relevant times had not complied with or fulfilled their duties as trustees under charity law. They failed to: exercise reasonable care and skill in the execution of their roles and as a result exposed the charity to risk and financial loss; ensure sufficient financial controls and procedures to protect the charity’s property file their annual accounting information, in accordance with their statutory obligations, on time.