Charity condemned over sham weddings

Charities have been urged to keep a tight rein over the use of their properties after the former minister of a Christian charity was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence for conducting sham weddings.

The Charity Commission this week published an inquiry report into the Celestial Church of Christ, based in Islington, north London, after the conviction of clergyman Adeola Magbagbeola for conspiracy to defraud in February.

Magbagbeola was sacked from his position by the charity after conducting at least 15 bogus marriages in order to contravene immigration rules.

“It is the fundamental duty of all charity trustees to protect the property of their charity and to secure its application for the objects of the charity,” the report said.

The commission ordered the charity to tighten up its financial management and general administration, which the regulator described as being on “a somewhat informal basis”. It was instructed to submit overdue financial returns dating back to 2003.

“In order to discharge this duty it is essential there are adequate internal financial and administrative controls over the charity’s assets and their use,” the report said.

Charities must also ensure that the public’s perception of charity is not clouded by “inappropriate activities”, it added.

The regulator also found that the charity’s decision not to suspend Magbagbeola after his arrest, as trustees considered him to be innocent until proven guilty, was reasonable.

Third Sector Online was unable to contact anyone from the charity for comment.

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