HomeForeignNigerian Pastor Jailed For Stealing Church Offerings In Ireland

Nigerian Pastor Jailed For Stealing Church Offerings In Ireland

A former Pastor of a Christian church based in Kildare has been convicted of a range of theft charges, involving more than €125,000, as well as multiple breaches of company law and deception.

As well as stealing money, Ebenezer Oduntan, former Pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) City of David, ran an elaborate fraud, generating payments from the Revenue Commissioners.

Oduntan, Curragh Grange, Newbridge, Co Kildare, has now been convicted of all 87 charges he faced.

When his bank accounts were analysed as part of a criminal investigation into his finances, he was found to have passed five times more than his declared income through his accounts for the years 2012-2018.

His trial concluded with guilty verdicts on Wednesday at Naas Circuit Court after a three-week hearing. He was convicted of nine company law offences, 73 counts of theft and five counts of deception.

Oduntan’s trial was told he stole church funds, including cheques made payable to cash and cheques of up to €20,000 made payable to him personally. The Corporate Enforcement Authority (CEA) also said Oduntan ran “an elaborate fraud” involving the inflation of donations made to the church, which resulted in the Revenue Commissioners reimbursing more than it should have under the Charitable Donation Scheme.

He was investigated by the CEA, the Republic’s company law enforcement agency, and put on trial. During that three-week trial, evidence was heard from witnesses from the Charities Regulator, Companies Registration Office, Revenue Commissioners, AIB, Bank of Ireland, Life Credit Union, as well as from the current pastor and a number of members of the RCCG.

The trial also heard from a senior forensic accountant and member of the Garda seconded to the CEA for the purposes of carrying out criminal investigations. The CEA forensic accountant described a “total absence of standard financial controls and corporate governance procedures” within the church, which is a limited company, under Oduntan.

The church he once led claims to operate on “a mandate to preach the gospel of Jesus to all people and nations, and its members to live a lifestyle of holiness”. It also defines itself as “a bible believing church under the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit”.

The church is based at Naas Enterprise Park, Naas, Co Kildare, and at one point had a membership of more than 100 families, many of whom were the source of the donations from which Oduntan benefited.

Midway through his trial, Oduntan pleaded guilty to nine charges of furnishing false information to the Companies Registration Office, five counts of deception and 19 counts of theft. The jury in the case, before Judge Martina Baxter, on Wednesday returned guilty verdicts on all 54 outstanding charges.

After the verdicts were returned, Oduntan was remanded in custody by Judge Baxter and was due to appear before the court again on April 10th

IRISH TIMES

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