Premium Times reports that the imminent breakup of their marriage may be the least of the problems popular mega-church pastor, Chris Oyakhilome, and his wife, Anita, are facing at the moment as the United Kingdom agency is investigating the UK branch of their church, Christ Embassy, over controversial payments. The United Kingdom Charity Commission has launched a probe into the transfer of at least N941 million (£3.6 million) by the church to overseas entities between 2008 and 2012.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Charity Commission said it has opened 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.”
According to the Charity Commission, which is the regulator of charities in England and Wales, statutory inquiries are only opened to investigate “the most serious” regulatory breaches. The commission said the purpose of the inquiry is to “determine whether there has been any mismanagement or misconduct on behalf of the charity trustees; to establish whether charitable funds have been properly applied and take appropriate remedial action if necessary.”
The investigation was initiated in July 2013, but after interviewing members of the board of trustees and perusing the records and books of the church for a year, the commission was still not convinced that the church has been prudent in managing its finances. Subsequently, the UK tax authority, HM Revenue and Customs, has withheld N711.4 million (£ 2.7 million) due to the church in donation between 2008 and 2012 until the conclusion is resolved.
On August 11, the commission effectively side-lined the church’s board of trustees and appointed an interim manager to take over the management of the church. In what it described as a “temporary and protective measure,” the commission appointed Rod Weston of the international audit and accounting firm, Mazars, to take over the running of the church.
Until investigation is concluded, Mr. Weston would “take over the management of the charity, including its staff, assets, interests, and relations with third parties,” the commission said. He is also expected to discharge the functions of the church’s trustees and take steps necessary to secure and take control of the assets of the church.
The commission however added that the activities of the church would not be suspended by the appointment as the Interim Manager is expected to work with the pastors of the church to ensure its religious and charity activities continue as before.