Religious Cult used UK funds to bribe Indonesian Police

(London) Sunday Business News/June 9, 1996
By Tony Yorke

One of Britain's most sinister and dangerous religious cults made irregular payments ot Indonesian police officials in order to halt an investigation into the group's controversial activities, Sunday Business can reveal.

The London Church of Christ (LCC), a registered British charity that has been accused of using brainwashing techniques on its members, paid officers based in Jakarta after four of the cult's UK leaders had been arrested, after being found preaching on the streets of the capital.

Under Indonesia's strict Islamic Laws, Christian worship is not permitted in public places.

Documents marked as "private and confidential" which were written by one of the arrested LCC leaders, have been obtained by Sunday Business. They reveal that donations - or "special contributions" as the LCC calls the money - raised to send a mission team to Jakarta in February 1990 were used partly to ensure that the authorities dropped their enquiries into the group.

The LCC team was headed by John Louis and Daniel Eng, two graduates recruited by the church while they were students in the UK.

According to papers written by Eng on 7 August 1991, he, Louis, and two others were "subjected to police interrogations" because of their church activities. They were also threatened with "imprisonment" by what Eng describes in a secret report as "corrupt authorities."

Eng left the LCC after his experiences in Jakarta. He has since moved to the US and resumed his full-time university education. "I was forced to hand over money raised in the UK, to police officers in Jakarta," Eng confirmed. "I did this after being given specific instructions by my superiors.

"The money - which amounted to several thousands of pounds - went to the officers who were investigating the church's activities in Jakarta to stop them making their enquiries."

On Tuesday, Home Secretary Michael Howard is scheduled to meet representatives from the anti-cult movement who wish to bring the irregular activities of LCC to the Government's attention.

Ayman Akshar, a former senior member of the LCC, is one of the most prominent members of the anti-cult movement. He has spent the past four years campaigning against the LCC's activities and its recruitment techniques he told Sunday Business: "In many cases this movement destroys and causes unbearable hardship to many families, engages in brutal financial exploitation and leaves many in need of psychological help, even after they have left.

"If I had known my money was being used to bribe people then I would have seriously objected. But no one within LCC is ever allowed to really know what the money is being spent on. Only a small group of very senior leaders are afforded that luxery."

Under LCC rules, all members must donate by direct debit 10% of their gross annual salary to the organization. The LCC is effectively the UK subsidiary of the Boston Church of Christ, headed by Los Angeles-based Kip McKean. The church is estimated to have more than 60,000 followers worldwide, raising #70m a year.

However, Akshar, who spent seven years as an LCC leader, is determined to present enough evidence of wrongdoing by the group - whether intentional or accidental - to the Home Secretary at the next week's meeting.

"We have numerous examples that we will be citing," he added. "The Jakarta incident is just one of many. We also have examples of other financial abuses involving Deed of Covenants and housing benefit applications, not to mention many instances of physical and mental abuse."

During the past five years the LCC has been the subject of a major investigation by the Inland Revenue's Special Compliance Office, which resulted in a #270,000 repayment to the tax authorities.

The Charities Commissioners, the regulatory body that monitors all UK organizations that have been granted charitable status, has also conducted a major 18-month inquiry, which concluded last year, into the LCC's affairs.

In a letter written in February 1995, Phillipa holmes, an assistant commissioner, admitted that the investigation had uncovered significant flaws in the cult's affairs.

"Our inquiries into the London Church of Christ indicated there were weaknesses in its financial controls, and funds collected for specific purposes were not kept properly separated," she said.

"The London Church of Christ has acknowledged to us that the trustees have not always exercised control to the degree they should have done. The church has grown at a remarkable rate, and the trustees are aware that they and their predecessors experienced some difficulty in keeping pace."

Despite uncovering this, the Charities Commissioners has refused to take action against the LCC. It is because of this decision that Akshar, and his supporters, are determined to make the Government see the light.

"We feel there is no desire on the part of the authorities to get to the heart of the matter," said Akshar.

"After the meeting on Tuesday maybe there will be a reappraisal of the situation so that justice, at long last, will be seen to be done."

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