Former Diocese of London chief charged with $5.9 million fraud, money laundering

London, church
St Margaret's Church in London, England. |

A former Head of Operations at the Anglican Diocese of London has been charged with fraud and money laundering over the alleged disappearance of more than $5.9 million (£5 million) from the organization between 2009 and 2019.

Martin Sargeant, a 52-year-old man who was the head of operations of the London Diocesan Fund in London and Westminster has been charged with fraud that is “historic in nature,” said the Diocese of London, which is the group of Church of England organisations located in North London, in a statement.

Sargeant left the Diocese, which comprises parishes, schools, chaplaincies, missional communities and other organizations, in 2019 after the new Bishop of London, the Rt. Rev. Sarah Mullally, asked for his role to be reviewed.

“At the time there was no suspicion or evidence of criminality but, last year, the LDF made a report to the Action Fraud unit of the (Metropolitan) Police, and a serious incident report to the Charity Commission, after a parish raised concerns about funds they had not received,” the diocese said.

Mullally said the LDF “worked tirelessly with the police over the past year … The total sum of money involved is believed to be in the region of £5 million, affecting a number of different organisations.”

“This appears to be a gross betrayal of trust for all those who knew and worked with this individual … He [allegedly] exploited his position for personal gain,” she continued.

The diocese called the alleged fraud “historic in nature,” and clarified that it “does not relate to Common Fund, Bishops’ costs, or the present day funding of parishes.”

Richard Perry, chair of the LDF’s Audit and Risk Committee, said their priority has been to support the police investigation and “to do all we can to secure the defrauded funds.”

“Our independent auditors have also carried out an urgent review of our present-day financial controls, to confirm they are robust,” Perry added. “A second independent inquiry will report to the London Diocesan Fund’s trustees and look at what happened and how, and will make any further recommendations for the future, once the current case has been closed.”

A report released last week on the suicide of a priest from the diocese, Fr. Alan Griffin, also referred to Sargeant who had suggested that Griffin had “used rent boys,” which led to a year-long church investigation into unspecified allegations against Griffin, according to The Sunday Times.

Those accusations had a “significant impact on him,” the report said. Griffin took his own life in 2020.

The reviewer, Chris Hobson, wrote: “It is abundantly clear that this individual [Martin Sargeant] was allowed to function with little accountability or supervision during the tenure of the former bishop [Lord Chartres],” Church Times reported.

“Had such accountability and supervision been in place then many of the issues referred to in later interviews would have been resolved at the time they were allegedly taking place.”

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