Extent of fraud investigations into controversial church are revealed, as national newspaper follows up on Inside Croydon’s story, and further disturbing allegations begin to emerge over child-safeguarding
The Serious Fraud Office has been investigating the cult-like SPAC Nation since February, after a whistleblower presented Scotland Yard and the Charity Commission with a file of at least 50 company records, all with links to members of the money-grabbing church.
The Sunday Times is reporting today that the whistleblower’s dossier, “raises concerns about pastors at SPAC Nation allegedly putting pressure on young people to take out loans to give to the church, and other financial irregularities”.
SPAC Nation, the Sunday Times reports, “is accused of raising money by persuading parishioners to set up companies and arrange overdrafts with a bank.
“The companies are then struck off for failing to fill in annual returns, leaving banks out of pocket. More than 50 suspicious companies were set up by people alleged to be SPAC Nation members, most of which were dissolved with no activity, according to the dossier.”
The file of evidence was compiled by the whistleblower, who is an accountant who works for a young people’s charity.
Yet just a few months before the damning dossier about some of the church’s activities was sent to the police, SPAC Nation’s founder, the self-proclaimed “pastor” Tobi Adegboyega, had been invited into No10 Downing Street for tea. Gavin Barwell, the former Croydon Central MP who has praised SPAC Nation in the past for its work around gangs and knife crime, was the Prime Minister’s chief of staff at the time.
Adegboyega, who lives in a £2.5million mansion in the Shirley Hills and drives a £150,000 Rolls-Royce, has refused to answer Inside Croydon’s questions about when he last used the passage from the Gospels about camels, eyes of needles, rich men and the kingdom of God, though the Sunday Times reports that in a sermon last year he told his congregation, “Eighty per cent of Jesus’s parables are about money.”
Avaricious Adegboyega told his service: “God is a trader.”
Another SPAC Nation pastor, Jayde Edwards, was the Conservative Party’s candidate in last week’s Fairfield by-election, installed on the ballot paper thanks to the influence of Coulsdon councillor Mario Creatura. Edward campaign was notable for the support of sometimes hundreds of young canvassers, many of them from the SPAC congregation.
Creatura also used to work for Barwell and in Downing Street, and is standing in the December 12 General Election as the Tory candidate in Croydon Central.
As Inside Croydon reported yesterday, SPAC Nation is now subject to two reviews by the Charity Commission, one instigated in February into the registered charity’s financial accounts, the other review raised “urgently” last week because the church may have broken charity law by actively supporting Edwards’ political campaign.
Serious concerns have also been raised by Steve Reed OBE, the Labour MP for Croydon North since 2012, who has pointed out that local Tories have handed SPAC the voting register for Fairfield ward, giving them access to personal details of thousands of residents, some of whom might be seen by the church as potential new members of their church.
“In Croydon, SPAC came under the spotlight because of the political involvement through Jayde Edwards, who was installed as the candidate by Creatura,” a local activist said today. “Yet it seems that their entryism to the Conservative Party goes much higher, to Creatura’s old boss, Gavin Barwell.”
Reed is meeting the police tomorrow after having reported SPAC Nation over further concerns about child-safeguarding. Reed is Labour’s shadow spokesperson on child safety.
SPAC Nation, for its part, continues to try to distance itself from the allegations of money-laundering and fraud, passing the buck to individuals and pastors over whom, it maintains, it has no control or responsibility. “We as a church do not encourage people to take out loans, especially those who are unaware of the financial responsibility,” SPAC told the Sunday Times.
“These companies were established by members of the church and run independently outside of the church. This is not unusual for a generation in which creating businesses is more accessible.”
For more on this story: Don’t call us cult-like, says cult-like SPAC Nation
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