Ukraine: Megachurch pastor in business scandal

The pastor of the largest church in Europe has become embroiled in a financial dispute over $100 million invested in a failed business venture he had allegedly encouraged church members to invest in.

Ukrainian charismatic pastor Sunday Adelaja, founder of the 30,000-member Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for All Nations in Kiev, is accused by some Pentecostal leaders of plotting an investment scheme and planning to run off with the funds after promising huge returns to members.

Adelaja was accused of encouraging those he knew to invest in King’s Capital, a financial group led by a member of his church, according to Charisma magazine. The Nigerian-born pastor had reportedly promised up to 60 per cent returns on investment.

In November, some church members reported to government authorities that they were unable to retrieve the money they invested, which left many of them bankrupt. One member of King’s Capital was later arrested on suspicion of fraud.

Suspicion of Adelaja’s involvement in the possible scandal developed when news broke out that funds from King’s Capital were invested in the Nigeria-based GS Microfinance Bank Limited. Some accused the Nigerian-born pastor of planning to leave for his homeland where the money was deposited.

However, Adelaja claims he is not involved with King’s Capital and that the business failed because of the global financial crisis. He says the company invested the majority of its funds in real estate, which has decreased in value, and thus was unable to pay back investors.

“When the [economic] crisis came, all the real estate is no more selling,” Adelaja told Charisma. “The land is enough to pay back the money owed. The problem is … everything is stopped in the country - nothing is selling now in Ukraine.”

He also says the scandal has been made up by Interior Affairs Minister Yurii Lutsenko who wants to weaken the evangelical movement in Ukraine.

Adelaja denied ever encouraging church members to invest in the company.

Regarding GS Microfinance, the megachurch pastor admitted to being involved in the business that provides small loans to poor Nigerians to start businesses and earn a living. But he says he only invested his name and influence, not millions of dollars.

Despite Adelaja’s claim to innocence, Ukrainian Pentecostal and Charismatic pastors say they heard him encourage church members to invest in the company.

“He was not a president of this company, but he was the No 1 spiritual leader, and he told them what they have to do,” said Bishop M S Panochko, leader of the All-Ukrainian Union of Pentecostal Churches of Evangelical Faith, which is comprised of 1,500 churches across the country.

“He can do everything to tell them [he is] not involved, but all [the] leaders have a lot of facts, and we have a lot of video of when he was pushing people, and he encouraged people to invest in this business.”

Panochko and nine other leaders recently met with Adelaja to discuss his alleged involvement in King’s Capital and how the controversy has negatively affected the evangelical church in Ukraine.

The leaders agreed that if Adelaja does not issue an apology for endorsing King’s Capital, they will publicly release a statement to Christians in Ukraine and abroad, the country’s government, denouncing Adelaja and claiming no affiliation with him.

Pentecostal leaders have also accused Adelaja of exaggerating the number of members of God’s Embassy across Ukraine as 100,000, when the real figure is closer to 10,000.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs is investigating the case, but has not found any reason to formally charge Adelaja yet.

Adelaja earlier this year was touring the United States to promote his book ChurchShift, in which he gave pointers on how to spark a revolution in American culture that will reform American society.