A Croydon-based church which worked closely with local Tories – and even got close to Boris Johnson – has been shut down after Charity Commission and Insolvency Service investigations found ‘suspicious or incorrect accounts’. By STEVEN DOWNES
SPAC Nation has been wound up after failing to account for more than £1.87million of outgoings and “operating with a lack of transparency”, the Insolvency Service announced this morning.
SPAC Nation was the cult-like church based in Croydon which was accused of exploiting its young worshippers, as well as facing allegations of multiple business frauds.
They were also, until caught out, enthusiastic backers of leading Croydon Tory Mario Creatura when he was a candidate in the 2019 General Election campaign, after he had nurtured their support with visits to that year’s Conservative Party Conference, appearing alongside Boris Johnson.
Such was the seriousness of safeguarding issues that were raised over the way senior figures in SPAC Nation exploited vulnerable young Londoners that there were even questions asked in the House of Commons in early 2020.
Reports first published by Inside Croydon had raised serious concerns about the conduct of senior ministers in SPAC Nation, as well as its members’ involvement in the November 2019 Fairfield council by-election, where one of SPAC’s “pastors” was the Croydon Conservatives’ candidate.
The petition to wind-up the company was presented in the High Court on behalf of the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in January this year under the provisions of section 124A of the Insolvency Act 1986, following confidential enquiries by a branch of the Insolvency Service under section 447 of the Companies Act 1985.
SPAC – which stands for Salvation Proclaimers Anointed Church – was founded in 2012 by a former property investor, Tobi Adegboyega.
The Charity Commission began investigating SPAC Nation in late 2019 following allegations that senior figures were pressuring young people in their congregation to sell their own blood to raise funds for the church.
The church was dubbed “the Church of Bling” by the tabloids because of Adeboyega’s expensive tastes in clothes and fast cars, while he lived in a £2.5million-plus mansion in the Shirley Hills. As well as his Lamborghini with number plate “PA5TOR”, Adeboyega was also seen to have a £150,000 Rolls-Royce and a couple of Range Rovers parked in the house’s commodious drive.
“Pastor Tobi” staged weekly services attended by hundreds of worshippers at the Grand Sapphire Hotel, off the Purley Way, where one of the principal objectives appeared to be for young church-goers to pay over large sums of cash in the church collection. Church leaders – “pastors” – would spend much of their time schooling young church-goers into how to claim business loans and grants, with little real intention of ever establishing proper businesses or repaying the loans.
At one stage, SPAC Nation claimed that 55 per cent of its congregation had a criminal past.
SPAC gatherings were also attended by security heavies, in case any inter-gang violence broke out, while also featuring music from balaclava-wearing rappers performing drill music, a form of grime.
SPAC Nation grew to be active across London and attracted a large number of young people, many from the BAME communities, as it said that it sought to help them leave a life of gangs, drugs and knife crime.
Adegboyega and his followers said that they achieved this by offering refuge from gangs in safe houses at various locations around the capital. At its peak, SPAC was reported to operate 23 such safe houses; Adegboyega’s former home in Shirley housed more than a dozen ex-criminals when he was based there.
Some former church members alleged that it was in these houses that grooming and sexual assault, including with minors, took place.
The Charity Commission probed the financial and safeguarding concerns and in December 2019 ordered SPAC Nation to bank all its money while the investigation took place.
Salvation Proclaimer Ministries Limited, which was registered as a business at Companies House, was wound up in the public interest in the High Court before Judge Burton. The Official Receiver has been appointed as liquidator of the company.
The court heard that initially, the church group received positive reviews and media attention. But in late 2019, the Insolvency Service received complaints about SPAC Nation before instigating its own confidential enquiries into the church’s activities.
Investigators interviewed one of the company’s directors, Adedapo Olugbenga Adegboyega, who was also known as Dapo Adegboyega or “Pastor Dapo”.
During interviews, Dapo Adegboyega said that the church group had more than 2,000 members and 200 ordained ministers and pastors. He “failed to provide any supporting information”, the Insolvency Service said.
“Further enquiries found that SPAC Nation either failed to comply or only partially complied with statutory requirements, including providing data to support claimed donations, and accounting records in support of £1.87million of expenditure,” the Insolvency Service said in a statement issued this morning.
“The company’s financial statements in the two years to 31 December 2019 set out £610,000 of rent expenditure. However, the company did not have a single base of its own and would hire venues across London to hold services, at significant expense.
“Salvation Proclaimer Ministries Limited was wound-up after the court concluded the company operated with a lack of transparency, filed suspicious or incorrect accounts, and was insolvent at the time of the hearing.
“It was also recognised that the company provided inconsistent information to the Insolvency Service and Charity Commission, and failed to deliver up adequate accounting records.”
In the formal statement issued today after the conclusion of the court hearing, the Insolvency Service said, “The company remains subject of a statutory inquiry by the Charity Commission, who are examining financial, governance and safeguarding matters at the charity.”
Edna Okhiria, the Insolvency Service’s chief investigator, said, “While SPAC Nation claimed it had noble intentions to support vulnerable and young people, our enquiries uncovered a different side of the charity.
“There were clear concerns around how the church group managed its affairs and SPAC Nation failed to properly account for income received from donations and other expenditure.
“The court recognised the severity of SPAC Nation’s actions and this sends a strong message that proper records and accounts must be maintained, even if you’re a charity.”
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