Thinking Anglicans

London diocesan fraud: a further update

We reported on this previously here: London diocese: Update on fraud investigation.

Today, the Birmingham Mail reported this development: Former church official from Dudley accused of ‘defrauding charity of more than £5million’

A former church official from Dudley accused of clocking up “more flights than globetrotting broadcaster Alan Whicker” has appeared in court charged with defrauding a charity of more than £5 million. Martin Sargeant worked as operations manager for the Church of England’s Diocese of London from 2008 until his retirement in 2019 and was clerk of the City church grants committee.

The 52-year-old is accused of defrauding the charitable trust – set up by an Act of Parliament in 1891 to support and fund the restoration of churches and chaired by the Archdeacon of London – of about £5.2 million over 10 years. Sargeant is also charged with money laundering after allegedly spending the funds on gambling and flying more than 180 times with British Airways..

…The fraud charge alleges Sargeant abused his position as operations manager to make a gain of about £5.2 million between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2019. He is accused of fraudulently requesting grants for funding for dysfunctional churches to steal the money by transferring funds through church bank accounts he controlled as part of his job.

The money was then allegedly moved into accounts he controlled and that were in his name, before Sargeant spent it on “personal entertainment or frivolous things like gambling,” said Mr Packenham. Magistrates decided the charges were too serious to be dealt with in the magistrates’ court and sent the case to Southwark Crown Court, where Sargeant will appear at a later date.

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Keith
Keith
3 days ago

How on earth did this happen? Where were the Trustees and the auditors, asleep at the wheel?

Graham Watts
Graham Watts
Reply to  Keith
3 days ago

Totally the only question!

Richard Allen
Richard Allen
Reply to  Keith
3 days ago

And the then Bishop of London?

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  Keith
3 days ago

Was he line managed by the archdeacon of London by any chance?

Bystander
Bystander
Reply to  Charles Read
3 days ago

As someone who worked in the Two Cities staff team during this period, I’m fairly certain he was line managed by no-one…

Mark Elliott Smith
Mark Elliott Smith
Reply to  Bystander
2 days ago

That seemed to be the thrust of the Learning Lessons Review. The reviewer himself seemed confused about how he was paid, how he fitted into the Diocesan structure, and to whom he was responsible. I saw him described on several occasions as the Archdeacon’s Head of Operations, though that might be shorthand; but it would suggest that the Archdeacon might reasonably have had some role. But thr question of supervision is surely is one of the most crucial questions, and if it had been asked a few years ago, we might just possibly not be in this sorry state.

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
3 days ago

“The 52-year-old is accused of defrauding the charitable trust – set up by an Act of Parliament in 1891 to support and fund the restoration of churches and chaired by the Archdeacon of London…” Would that, by any chance, be the same Archdeacon of London who wrote down the content of the infamous ‘brain dump’ and thought it unnecessary to ask questions?  

Bystander
Bystander
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
3 days ago

Yes – the same person. The media generally seem not to be making the connection between the two cases.

peter kettle
peter kettle
Reply to  Bystander
3 days ago

Not quite. The period of the alleged fraud covers the time of David Meara and Nick Mercer (the latter in an acting archdeacon role). Also, if memory serves me correctly, he was previously connected with another city church but I can’t remember which one.

peter kettle
peter kettle
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
2 days ago

Yes, but he was also Archdeacon of London 2009 – 2014

Bystander
Bystander
Reply to  peter kettle
3 days ago

Thank you for clarifying – yes, of course: the current Archdeacon of London took up his role at the beginning of 2016.

Bystander
Bystander
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
3 days ago

And, to be clear, Sargeant is the author of the “brain dump”.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
3 days ago

It’s worth remembering that Mr Sargeant is entitled to the presumption of innocence and nothing should be said that would prejudice his right to a fair trial. Indeed, it should not even be asserted as a fact that any money at all is missing. What can, I think, be legitimately said at this stage is that questions have been raised which need to be resolved. That being said, it is reasonable to comment to the effect that the trustees have allowed the affairs of their trusts to reach a position where they are unable to assure themselves, or their stakeholders,… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
2 days ago

Firstly, congratulations on your diligent research. I embarked on something similar but did not get so far!

Yes, we must not have trial by media – or the contributors to TA. On the previous thread (linked above) there was a lot of loose talk about the London Diocesan Fund and its auditors. Your researches suggest, at least to me, that much of that speculation was unfounded and should have been left unsaid. It’s now a matter for the Courts. The C of E internal inquiry was to follow the prosecution outcome.

Pete Broadbent
Pete Broadbent
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 day ago

Unreliable Narrator has very helpfully isolated the convoluted legal and financial framework within which this took place. The funds which are the subject of the alleged fraud are not strictly part of the LDF’s portfolio. And it is right that we should await the outcome of the Court Case until further comment can be made and a full inquiry can proceed. We have of course already examined the stable door in order to ensure that it is firmly bolted. But it’s a very serious matter which obviously requires more disinterment. (Sorry, that’s a terrible mixed metaphor!)

Mark Elliott Smith
Mark Elliott Smith
Reply to  Pete Broadbent
23 hours ago

Which begs the question: regardless of guilt or innocence, why was the stable door open in the first place? Who was responsible for checking whether the padlock was still in place? And it does worry me rather that, looking back at reports of the LDF (yes, I know that it is not part of the LDF portfolio!), in the risk management section, practically every possible contingency, including clergy who impede mission, is listed, except for the possibility of internal fraud. It makes me wonder if a certain complacency had crept in. I don’t say this in a spirit of snark,… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
2 days ago

Archbishop Justin Badi ‘Chairman of the G.S.F.A said this in a meeting of his followers: “He said that GSFA’s successful organization of an opportunity for bishops to re-affirm the 1998 biblical base for Lambeth Resolution 1.10 again in 2022, was important as a first step to signal the need for the Communion to reset its current policies and trajectory.  The primate of South Sudan, home to 4-million Anglicans added: “We (the Global South) represent the global face of Anglicanism, We sound the clarion call to return to biblical faithfulness at the historical home of our Communion. And we have come… Read more »

Liz Holder
Liz Holder
13 hours ago

This is the second case of (alleged) fraud in the Diocese of London. The previous one was in the 1990s and was perpetrated by an employee in the Finance Department. He was convicted and jailed. I was also an employee at the time and we queried the lack of internal financial controls then. Things don’t appear to have improved.

Margery Roberts
Margery Roberts
51 minutes ago

We must naturally wait for the court case to hear the facts of the alleged fraud. In the meantime, Mr Sargeant needs our prayers. But he had so much influence on parishes and individuals in the Two Cities that it is not unreasonable for them, at least, to have an active interest in the case. That being so, I feel that we must get the facts straight. The reporting so far suggests that it is the Trust for London and its grants committees that are specifically under the spotlight and not the LDF, although there are significant overlaps, including the… Read more »

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