Now the subject of fraud investigations, the controversial SPAC Nation church is also under threat of losing its status as a registered charity, too, which could cost it an estimated £250,000 per year
SPAC Nation, the money-grabbing cult-like church who worked with Croydon Tories to put up a candidate in this week’s Fairfield council by-election, may have jeopardised their charity status by dabbling in politics.
The Charity Commission is “aware of concerns” relating to SPAC Nation appearing to support a political candidate. A condition of having charitable status, with the considerable tax breaks that go with it, is that an organisation is expected to remain strictly apolitical.
Jayde Edwards, 20, a “pastor” in SPAC Nation, was the Tory candidate in Fairfield, where she and her church colleagues mobilised hundreds of their congregation to canvass and campaign over the past month. Edwards did not win the election, but her church’s involvement in politics could end up costing SPAC Nation its charitable status.
Individuals of any religious faith are allowed, of course, to be politically active, even standing for election. But registered charities are forbidden from becoming involved in politics, such as supporting a particular candidate or party, and the Charity Commission is examining whether SPAC Nation over-stepped the mark of what is allowed with its overt campaigning on behalf of Edwards over the past five weeks.
Yesterday, the Charity Commission confirmed that SPAC Nation has also been subject to a regulatory compliance case since February this year. This is believed to relate to the way that SPAC Nation has been accounting for the funding that its receives – more than £1.1million in 2018 alone.
And now, according to sources who are familiar with accountancy and the management of charity funds, SPAC Nation’s accounts, lodged with the Charity Commission as is required by law, also appear to have some serious shortcomings.
The latest accounts available, which were filed from offices registered in Bermondsey, show that in 2018 SPAC Nation had income of £1,171,250. This was derived solely from “Tithes and Offerings”.
The church meanwhile had unitemised “Administrative Expenses” amounting to a juicy looking £1,197,564.
This trading loss will have been covered in part, at least, from the previous year’s £223,000 surplus.
There are an estimated 2,000 SPAC Nation members. The church is run by “bling-loving pastor” Tobi Adegboyega, a sometime property investor, who lives in a rented £2.5million mansion in the Shirley Hills and drives a £150,000 Rolls-Royce.
Adegboyega and SPAC Nation stages weekly services at the Grand Sapphire Hotel, off the Purley Way, where worshippers are handed offering envelopes for which the minimum required “donation” can be as much as £200 per week.
SPAC gatherings also tend to be attended by security heavies, in case any inter-gang violence breaks out, and they often feature music from balaclava-wearing rappers performing drill music, a form of grime.
This week, Inside Croydon raised a question which some might think is relevant to the matter of SPAC Nation’s registered status as a charity.
We asked when was the last time that “Pastor” Tobi had used the Biblical verse Matthew 19:24 as a text from which to preach his Sunday sermon.
SPAC Nation refused to answer the question.
Adegboyega, the church’s spokesperson said, “will not respond to such questions as he deems them irrelevant and immaterial coming from such a credible platform in Croydon and would expect a more serious approach” (More serious? Ha!).
To save you (or “Pastor” Tobi) having to look it up, Matthew 19:24 is the verse which says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Things are about to get a lot more serious for SPAC Nation, as loss of its charitable status could cost them, based on last year’s income, an estimated £250,000 per year in tax breaks.
But making judgements based on SPAC Nation’s somewhat detail-lite filed accounts is not straightforward.
The accountant who submitted the 2018 financial statements appears to be a sole trader who started trading only in 2017, and then nearly got struck off. “That says a lot,” according to our source.
The source also notes that there have been no payments to trustees declared. “The director history and current composition is also ‘interesting’,” they said.
Following complaints that SPAC Nation was breaking charity laws about involvement in politics, the Charity Commission this week issued a statement which said: “We are aware of concerns about a tweet linked to the charity SPAC Nation, which appears to support a political candidate. We will be contacting the charity on this issue as a matter of urgency.
“Charities have a proud record of engaging in public debate and speaking up for the causes they serve.
“However, they also have a responsibility to do so within the rules. The public expects charities to be driven by their purpose and to represent their beneficiaries at all times.
“Charities must not engage in party political activity.”
It is not the first time this year that charity regulators have needed to have a word with SPAC.
The Commission’s ongoing regulatory compliance case is examining governance matters at the charity, and the regulator has issued the trustees with an action plan under Section 15(2) of the Charities Act 2011.
It said: “Our regulatory compliance case was opened in February 2019 after we became aware of concerns about the charity.”
In August, when Civil Society News was looking into the case, SPAC Nation issued an on-the-record denial that said outright that it was not subject to any regulatory action by the Charity Commission. We’re no experts, but we think there might be a passage in the Bible that covers that sort of behaviour, too.
This week, SPAC Nation denied that they had supported Edwards in the Croydon council by-election. They told Civil Society News, “SPAC Nation has no official affiliation with any political party. One of our members recently ran to be a Conservative councillor in a local election. We have many members in senior positions in the Labour Party as well.
“We will support anyone in our congregation to fulfil their potential, irrespective of the political party. But SPAC Nation itself has not promoted itself as supporting any political party but rather community leaders in their respective boroughs in which our members belong to, and who want to connect with the youths in our church.”
For more on this story: Don’t call us cult-like, says cult-like SPAC Nation
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