Croydon North MP Steve Reed is to raise in Parliament this week his growing concerns about a lack of police action over mounting complaints about the activities of SPAC Nation, the cult-like church which featured in a BBC Panorama documentary last night.
As well as allegations of widespread fraud, encouraging young people to commit benefit fraud or to hand over their student loans, Reed says he has received troubling reports of child sexual abuse committed at the church’s TRAP houses.
Reed says that he has presented the police with a dossier of evidence and testimony from former church members of “very, very serious child exploitation, potentially child sexual exploitation”.
SPAC – which stands for Salvation Proclaimers Anointed Church – was founded by a former property investor Tobi Adegboyega. Until recently, Adegboyega lived in a rented mansion in the Shirley Hills which is reckoned to be worth £2.5million, while driving a £150,000 Rolls-Royce, with a couple of Range Rovers parked outside.
Reed says he has identified at least 15 properties in London, called TRAP Houses – “Take Risks And Prosper” – where young people, some of them vulnerable, perhaps ex-gang members or drug users, are provided with homes by SPAC Nation. But the MP says that this is where the cult-like church grooms and practises “brain-washing” of the young church-goers.
“Young people are pressurised into having sex with older pastors, in some cases under the age of consent,” Reed said. “In one case, there is a serious allegation of an offence against a child.”
As Inside Croydon has reported, SPAC Nation is subject to investigations by the Charity Commission, the Serious Fraud Office and the counter-fraud department of at least one multi-national bank.
But with “Pastor” Adegboyega apparently now a potential flight risk from any investigation – having had demands for “seed”, donations from church-goers, circulated last week to pay for tickets for him and other senior church figures to go to Nigeria – Reed is becoming increasingly concerned that the Metropolitan Police is failing to act despite the seriousness of the allegations and the mounting evidence which he has accumulated himself.
Reed, who is also Labour’s shadow spokesperson on child protection, told Inside Croydon, “I’ve warned the police about the flight risk – and much else besides.
“I’m not at all happy the police haven’t confirmed if the police are doing anything at all about the allegations other than ‘considering’ them.
“What on earth is going on?
“Fundamentally, the gravity of the allegations mean the police and the safeguarding authorities need to act, quickly.”
Reed says he believes around 1,000 young people could be at risk, after they have been criminalised by their activities for the church, placed in serious debt, made homeless, cut off from their families and, in many cases, traumatised.
Asked whether SPAC Nation’s activities in Croydon have had greater latitude because of the poor state of the local council’s children’s services department – which has been in special measures since July 2017 – Reed suggested not: “It’s right across London,” he said. “There’s a similar story everywhere.”
Reed has found SPAC Nation operating in at least 12 London boroughs, as well as in Leicester and Birmingham.
Earlier this year, Adegboyega had a prime seat at the Conservative Party conference for Boris Johnson’s leader’s speech, attending the event with Shaun Bailey, the Tory candidate in next year’s London Mayoral elections.
Also nearby was Mario Creatura, the Coulsdon councillor and losing parliamentary candidate in Croydon Central at last week’s General Election.
Creatura was involved in the hand-picked selection of 20-year-old Jayde Edwards, a “pastor” in SPAC Nation, as the Tory candidate in last month’s Fairfield council by-election, which saw hundreds of her fellow church-goers out on the streets of the town centre distributing party political leaflets. The political activity ceased after the faud allegations were revealed by this website, with the Charity Commission investigation also looking into a breach of the law over charities being involved in elections.
For Reed, though, the issues go beyond politics.
“We need a proper investigation into the church’s activities, and urgently,” Reed said.
Reed says that five weeks ago, he accompanied four former SPAC Nation church-goers to the police to give evidence, where he also presented “a dossier of 12 further, very, very serious allegations of child exploitation and potentially child sexual exploitation”.
The Panorama programme, although it made use of extensive footage of Adegboyega and other church leaders from previous soft-focus TV shows which praised the good works which SPAC has been doing to remove people from gangs and knife crime, it failed to confront Adegboyega directly. Despite claiming to have been investigating the church for five months, the programme made no mention of the allegations of sexual abuse.
As will be familiar by now, SPAC Nation, in a statement issued to the programme-makers, denied all the allegations of financial exploitation (even though one of its pastors has recently resigned from the church because of involvement in such), stating once again that the church “is not responsible what goes on inside individual leaders’ or members’ houses”.
Reed, interviewed on BBC Radio London this morning, said, “It all seems to be about enriching this organisation and its leaders by any means possible. It is happening at scale across London. It’s terrifying.”
Reed says that the SPAC Nation affair, with the grooming of hundreds vulnerable young people, “has echoes of Rotherham”, the sex abuse scandal which lasted for three decades through the inaction of the police and local authorities.
“The authorities have so far failed to respond to SPAC Nation, and I hope to raise the matter as a piece of urgent business in Parliament this week,” Reed said.
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