THE UNITED Kingdom's Charity Commission, has ordered the flamboyant charismatic church leader, Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, of Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC), to pay £200,000 to the commission.
Reports monitored from CitiFM, an Accra-based private radio station, yesterday, indicated that following enquiries into the activities of the church, the commission had ordered Pastor Ashimolowo to pay the £200,000 as money allegedly misapplied.
Pastor Ashimolowo was said to have spent £120,000 to celebrate his birthday, while the balance of £80,000 was used to purchase Mercedes Benz car for his comfort.
The London-based Kingsway International Christian Centre, with branches in a number of countries, including Ghana, had been engaging in a running battle with the UK Charity Regulatory Authority, in the past two years, with receivers and managers appointed to run the church during the period of the enquiries. KPMG, a renowned management consultant and a chartered accounting firm was engaged to manage the church and its numerous assets during its turbulent period.
The firm was reported to have received over £150,000 for managing the church. However, the KICC has been explaining how the £120,000 was used.
According to the head of the Ghana Mission, Pastor Andy Yawson, the money was used to buy food and drinks during Pastor Ashimolowo's birthday, over two years ago.
In the case of the Mercedes Benz, the church denied the car belongs to the pastor, saying that, it only takes him to and from office. The church also explained that the vehicle is used to pick and drop visiting pastors.
Pastor Yawson denied that the church was involved in fraudulent deals, saying it would have been closed down if that had been the case. He said that the money which Pastor Ashimolowo had been asked to refund was salaries paid to him within the last eight years.
According to KICC Ghana boss, the Charity Commission's attention was drawn to the church in 2002 when KICC submitted its annual report and indicated the amount of money paid to its trustees, including Pastor Ashimolowo.
Pastor Yawson explained that under the Charity Law, trustees are not entitled to receive salaries, prompting the commission to delve into the activities of the church.
Investigation into the East London-based church, commensed in June 2, 2002, when the Charity Commission staff reported concerns about its management. A team from KPMG was engaged six months later to manage the church while investigations continued.
The church's immediate response was accusing the commission of racism. A KICC spokeswoman said, “Unless the Charity Commission is prepared to remove KPMG without delay and take account of our church culture, we feel that we will have no other course of action than to walk away from the charity so that we can run our church without compromising our Christian beliefs.
“This is a matter of principle, our beliefs, core values and human rights are worth much more than money to us”.
“They want to find something here, but they have not found anything. If they had, they could have shut it down 14 months ago”, she added. The spokeswoman said the intrusive investigations were because the church was headed by a black man.
“We feel that KPMG has found itself in a lucrative position and therefore has no incentive to conclude their work in the effective and efficient manner that you would expect of a world-class firm.
“Furthermore, we feel that the Charity Commission cannot see past their racial stereotypes, as if the church's money is at risk because it is headed by an African. They also have failed to try and understand the black church culture and modify their regulations accordingly”, she stated.
Daily Guide learnt that the commission's attention was rather attracted to the church, following revelations that KICC had acquired a number of commercial assets, including landed properties in executive areas of London. The church, set up 12 years ago, in a rented apartment, with a congregation of 300, now has over 10,000 members, with assets of over £25 million, and land in an area earmarked for the London Olympics Stadium.
The church says it lost over £10 million during the period of the investigations.
KICC was once rumoured to be interested in the acquisition of Winners Chapel, Ghana, following a disagreement between its founder, Bishop David Oyedepo and its local handlers, led by Bishop George Adjeman.