CHRIST Embassy founder Pastor Chris Oyakhilome and his board of trustees have been indicted by the UK Charity Commission for a range of illegal activities after a five-year-long investigation into the finances of the church.
Controversial; pastorpruener Oyakhilome has been under investigation for the commission after admitted in its belated 2015 financial statement, which it published in 2017, that its UK subsidiary, Christ Embassy, with net assets of more than N1bn (£2m) entered into liquidation on November 1, 2016. On its website, the UK Charity Commission confirmed this, flagging Christ Embassy as charity insolvent.
This week, the commission has indicted the church’s board of trustees of a wide range of fraudulent practices including illegally paying more than N827 (£1,767,250) to entities and organisations it shares close relationships with. According to the outcome of the inquiry published by the Charity Commission on its website, the church’s board of trustees was incriminated for shoddy management of the church’s account, arbitrary and curious payments, failure to comply with its grant-making policy, inadequate recording of its decision making processes and serious misconduct and/or mismanagement in the charity’s administration.
In one particularly disturbing instance, the inquiry found evidence the church may be laundering or diverting funds of up to N288m (£615,420) from its UK branches to six accounts controlled by the church’s Nigerian branch, Christ Embassy Nigeria. The Charity Commission also found that the church, which was founded in 1996 and has over 90 worship centres across the UK, 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 had an instance of criminal violation of British town planning and building regulations.
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 commission had interviewed members of the church’s board of trustees and perused the records and books of the church for a year.
Still not convinced that the church has prudently management its finances, the commission sidelined its board of trustees and appointed Rod Weston of the international audit and accounting firm, Mazar, as interim manager to take over the management of the church in what it described as temporary and protective measure. In the final report of the inquiry published on November 14, the interim manager stated 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.
Pastor Oyakhilome presided over the charity’s board of trustee since inception until he was forced to resign in 2014. In 2013, the UK government set up an inquiry into possible financial misplacement of the church’s fund between 2008 and 2012.
Government-appointed auditors later raised eyebrows over suspicious payments worth N2.14bn (£4.28m) made to companies and organisation closely related to the church in 2013. A peep into the church’s financial history showed that Christ Embassy started bleeding about 16 months before Pastor Oyakhilome was removed as a trustee.