NEWS
18/03/2021 16:37 GMT | Updated 18/03/2021 16:46 GMT

SPAC Nation: Church's Trustee Faces Fraud Allegations

Dapo Adegboyega has been accused of coercing a congregation member into obtaining a £100,000 loan for him at his previous church before joining SPAC Nation.

The chair of controversial church SPAC Nation has been hit with fraud allegations arising from his time with a previous church, HuffPost UK can reveal.

Adedapo “Dapo” Adegboyega, 43, is accused of conning a congregation member at the London branch of World Evangelism Bible Church (WEBIC) into taking out a £100,000 mortgage loan to buy a building that never materialised.

Dapo was a head coordinator and resident pastor at the church’s now-defunct London branch between 2012 and 2017 before moving on to join SPAC Nation, which has recently come under fire for alleged financial exploitation and safeguarding abuses that took place within its ranks. 

The pastor allegedly promised to pay the church member back within a month but failed to do so, leaving her lumbered with debt to this day. With added interest of £90,000, the debt rose to nearly twice its original amount.

Sheila Daniel, now a respiratory nurse working on the Covid-19 front line, has appealed to her one-time spiritual leader to take responsibility for the debt that has “ruined her life”.

She told HuffPost UK: “My trust has been broken. I trusted this man. When you believe in your pastor, you think they are human – you think that they fear God [...] not knowing that they are demons.

“The emotional and psychological stress of this entire ordeal has been so difficult. I cannot fully describe it. I never expected this, what they’re doing to me. This is £200,000 – where do they expect me to find the money to pay for this?

Sheila Daniel addressing the congregation at WEBIC – a church she began attending in 2008, one year after she arrived in the UK from Nigeria via Italy

Daniel began attending WEBIC in 2008 – a year after arriving in the UK from Nigeria, via Italy. She eventually became an assistant pastor. 

She told HuffPost UK that before coming to London, she had sold an Italian farmhouse for £110,000 and used the money to buy outright a two-bed flat in south London. She says Dapo had assisted her with this purchase by introducing her to a church member who helped her pick the property.

Then one day, Daniel said, Dapo verbally asked for her assistance in securing a £10,000 loan in contribution towards a new church building which would be repaid back to her within a month – and she agreed.

Daniel said other church members were also asked to put funds towards this cause.

She claims Dapo took the lead in making the necessary arrangements for the loan to be processed – but says she was unaware at first that this would involve remortgaging her two-bedroom flat, or what the full value of the loan would be.

She believes it was Dapo who enlisted the services of a mortgage broker from Barrett Mortgages, who in turn briefed a solicitor at the now-defunct Grant & Hind firm.

Grant & Hind contacted Daniel to arrange for the loan application to be processed in November 2012. They sent her documents to sign and return along with a copy of her photo ID.

However, Daniel did not physically meet the solicitor or have any in depth telephone conversations with them – so maintains that she was not properly informed that this was a remortgage. Solicitors have a legal obligation to ensure clients have a full understanding of the legal proceedings in which they are involved. 

This is £200,000 – where do they expect me to find the money to pay for this?Sheila Daniel

HuffPost UK has learned that in 2013 Michelle Mary Maclennan Hind – a former partner at the now-defunct Grant & Hind practice – was struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for a long list of financial offences. Eight allegations of misconduct and eight allegations of dishonesty were proven against her. Hind’s name is on a letter sent by Grant & Hind to Daniel, dated November 2012 and seen by HuffPost UK.

The £102,000 loan was released into Daniel’s bank account within a matter of days shortly after she sent her documents to Grant & Hind. 

Daniel claims that Adegboyega hadn’t informed her that the loan had been taken out against her two-bedroom London home, which would be repossessed in the event of non-payment.

When the funds arrived in her bank account, Daniel told us, she was “really, really down and kept questioning him about why the amount was so high”.

She added: “It was meant to be £10,000 as initially agreed. Dapo was reassuring, telling me not to worry and told me the money will be paid back within a month.

“I was sweating, hyperventilating and shaking. From that moment, I haven’t been myself.”

After receiving the loan, the mother-of-one paid £101,500 into the bank accounts of WEBIC and Dapo – £90,000 and £11,500 respectively, as allegedly instructed by the pastor. HuffPost UK has seen copies of the statements showing these transactions. 

When we approached Halifax for comment, it said that Daniel remained liable for the debt because she had signed the remortgage paperwork, transferred the funds and began making repayments – something she did after Dapo failed to.

 

I was sweating, hyperventilating and shaking. From that moment, I haven’t been myself.Sheila Daniel

 

Confusingly, Halifax has identified a separate law firm as being responsible for handling the remortgage – Mustoe Shorter. Mustoe Shorter told HuffPost UK it could find no record of Daniel’s case, despite being referred to by name in correspondence from Grant & Hind as “our agent”.

“We can confirm Mustoe Shorter acted for the bank and submitted a request for mortgage funds to be sent to them on 22nd November 2012,” a Halifax spokesperson said.

“In line with standard industry requirements, solicitors explain a borrower’s responsibilities and liabilities under the mortgage as part of their role. The steps taken by Mustoe Shorter to ensure that Mrs Daniel was aware of these is a matter for those two parties.” 

In the letter to Daniel, Grant & Hind state that “Mustoe Shorter is our agent and will act for the lender”.

This was not the first time Daniel said Dapo had asked her to borrow large sums of money on behalf of the church, which she would source from a combination of borrowing from friends and taking out loans from Halifax. The pastor paid back some of these loans but mostly neglected to do so. Asked why she took out the loan in light of these inconsistent repayments, Daniel explained that she complied out of eagerness to “do something good for the Lord”. 

Dapo failed to pay the majority of the £100,000 back and according to Daniel became unreachable, dodging all attempts at making contact after 2015 and failing to answer her lawyer’s letters. He ultimately closed the WEBIC London branch and joined SPAC Nation.

WEBIC made only a few sporadic payments back to Daniel, amounting to £2,000, from the company bank account between September and December 2013. HuffPost UK has seen these statements.

Daniel sought legal advice, launching a county court claim against Adegboyega, WEBIC and its Nigeria-based founder Prophet Dr Samson Ayonrinde – but said she says she was unable to raise the funds to see the action through.

In 2016, Daniel says she tracked Adegboyega down at his home and demanded that an agreement be set out in writing for repayment of the debt.

A contract on WEBIC-headed paper, backdated to November 2012, was duly drafted in October 2016 stipulating that £442 would be paid back via standing order each month for a period of 30 years.

Seen by HuffPost UK, the written agreement is signed by Adegboyega, Daniel, and church trustee Pastor Major Dovi Olufela Yebovi.

Daniel says the contract wasn’t kept to, and that she reported the matter to the Metropolitan Police in 2017 and explained the situation to Halifax, her building society. She said it “did not listen” to her concerns.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “On January 17, 2017, an allegation of identity theft was made to the MPS. This allegation was referred to Action Fraud to investigate.”

Action Fraud has been unable to provide HuffPost UK with an update.

Having recently given birth to her first child months ago, Daniel says she has been forced to juggle multiple jobs to make ends meet and keep up with monthly repayments of the loan herself.

In her desperation, Daniel contacted Pastor Tobi Adegboyega – Dapo’s younger brother and de facto leader of SPAC Nation – to intervene in May 2018. HuffPost UK has seen lengthy messages from her begging for assistance.

In a message seen by HuffPost UK Tobi told her in May 2018 the debt “will be sorted”. In another message dated July 31, 2018, the SPAC Nation pastor told Daniel that a payment of £500 would be deposited in her account after asking for her bank details during the same conversation.

The payment reflected in Daniel’s bank statement, as seen by HuffPost UK, came from an account named SR Vanguard. SR Vanguard is the name of a now-dissolved company linked to Tobi’s Pine Coombe address in Croydon. Between April to June 2018, three payments of £1,200, £600 and £400 were made from the same bank account.

Daniel contacted Samson Adegboyega – Tobi and Dapo’s father, who runs SPAC Nation HQ in Nigeria – in September 2018. In texts seen by HuffPost UK, he suggested she appeal to Tobi for help and assured her all would be “well”. 

She told us: “I’ve approached so many people for help. The bank told me that if I don’t keep up with the payments then they’re going to repossess my property. That’s why I’ve been struggling, working night shifts and day shifts. They have to wake up and pay this loan – it’s not fair.  

“The UK government should hold them responsible. They won’t be happy that I’m speaking out as someone who knows them well but I am a fighter. When you trust someone so much and they betray you like this, you have to fight.”

HuffPost UK has approached Prophet Dr Samson Ayonrinde for comment as head of WEBIC Worldwide, in addition to his wife Prophetess Mercy and Pastor Major Dovi Olufela Yebovi – who were both listed as trustees of the London branch.

A WEBIC Worldwide spokesperson said: “WEBIC London was a different entity to Nigeria. The prophet is the founder but not resident in [the] UK. The board of trustees is responsible for governing the financial matters of the church; the prophet and prophetess are not involved in the financial running of the church. They are not legally empowered as they are not UK residents.”  

The church was asked about Yebovi but did not offer a comment about him. Yebovi was also contacted directly but did not reply.

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“Pastor Dapo took advantage of my vulnerability,” Daniel told HuffPost UK. “I was alone with no family here – the church was like my solace. They’d come to my house for fellowship. They were like my second family.”

WEBIC was registered with the Charity Commission in 2004. This certification remains active on the website, but the commission told HuffPost UK it was insolvent as of January 2018.

It was also registered on Companies House in the same year but went into compulsory liquidation in 2018 after directors failed to submit annual returns for the two years prior.

Dapo does not appear on official documentation for WEBIC with either the Charity Commission and Companies House, but was the “Europe co-ordinator” of WEBIC London and a resident pastor.

In addition to being a trustee of SPAC Nation according to Charity Commission filings, Dapo Adegboyega was appointed as director of the church on Companies House in September 2012 and resigned in March 2014. He was then reappointed in July 2014 and again resigned in June 2020.

He was reappointed, once more, in September 2020 and resigned again in January 2021.

This is the first time such a senior SPAC Nation leader has been publicly named in allegations of fraud and dishonesty. 

In November 2019, HuffPost UK revealed that the controversial church – which was once hailed as a beacon of hope for ex-gang members – had created the conditions for fraudsters to flourish within its ranks and failed to act on pastors financially exploiting the young people it claims to help.

We were also told about shocking evidence of abuse within safe houses set up by pastors in SPAC Nation, supposedly to protect vulnerable youngsters escaping gangs.

In response to this, the Charity Commission and Met Police launched investigations into individuals associated with the church. Dapo has publicly refuted all allegations against SPAC Nation. 

Previously, SPAC Nation has distanced itself from the actions of its pastors, saying “a community with hundreds of pastors cannot monitor what each pastor or leader does”

Following this, concerns about the church were debated in parliament, the organisation rebranded as NXTION Family and Pastor Tobi announced that he was stepping down from the helm – though, to date, he continues to lead all of the church’s Periscope sermons and remains widely regarded as the face of SPAC Nation.

Meanwhile, a number of other people have resigned as directors of the charity on Companies House and it has fallen behind with filing annual returns.

In December, the Met Police arrested and bailed a 40-year-old man linked to SPAC Nation on suspicion of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering.

In May 2020, police raided six addresses and arrested a 24-year-old man on suspicion of fraud offences before releasing him under investigation.

When allegations against Dapo were put to the Charity Commission, a spokesperson said: “We have an active inquiry into SPAC Nation. Whilst our inquiry is ongoing we cannot comment, but we will continue to examine all relevant concerns identified as part of our investigation.”

When these allegations were put to Dapo via SPAC Nation’s press office, a spokesperson told HuffPost UK: ”We have found your reports are always false, that you have become a safe haven for blackmail and un-intelligent gossip and nothing ever comes out of your reports. This piece especially is an obvious show of your desperation to spread falsehood.

“Whereas we might have thought that you were sincerely wrong in most of your publications on SPAC, it’s obvious now that you are mischievous and desperate to prove something on an account of hearsay which will not lead anywhere anytime soon in this case due to the lack of investigation and level of intelligence needed.

“On this note let us just state that seeing how ridiculous your write-ups are and the fast decline of common sense, we do not wish to be contacted by you any more. We will not be responding to any of your future claims or articles any more moving forward.”

Despite having previously provided statements to HuffPost UK for coverage about the organisation and individuals associated with it, the spokesperson continued: “We have never been given the opportunity to defend our side in any of your previous articles and allegations. We actually thought you were a journalist who sought the truth but now we see you have no intention of finding the truth and just want to be seen.

“Please do not ever contact us again for our side of a story as you have no decency, class or self discipline that a journalist should have. You have completely disregarded your readers’ intelligence.

“Finally, let me assure you that SPAC is stronger, bigger and better as a leading light amongst young people and the results are public.

“This assures us of your irrelevance and faith in humanity’s constant search for truth, as one will always come looking for truth and find it. We believe you will continue to decline and many young people will continue to find hope and faith.”