Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has used parliamentary privilege to accuse the Hillsong church of fraud, money laundering and tax evasion to fund lavish trips and lifestyles.
Hillsong has disputed the allegations by the Tasmanian MP, saying his remarks were out of context and based on “untested allegations” made by an employee in an ongoing legal case.
Mr Wilkie claimed on Thursday that tens of thousands of leaked financial records and documents show misuse of church funds and lavish spending.
He said the money was spent on “the kind of shopping that would embarrass a Kardashian” and show former Hillsong leader Brian Houston, who stepped down from the role last year, “treating private jets like Ubers”.
In a three-month period Houston used church money for trips costing $179,000, Mr Wilkie said, and the documents showed four Houston family members and friends spent $150,000 of church money on a luxury retreat in Cancun, Mexico in 2021.
It’s also alleged the new head of Hillsong, Phil Dooley, spent tens of thousands of dollars on business-class flights for him and his daughter.
“Hillsong followers believe that the money they put in the poor box goes to the poor but these documents show how that money is actually used to do the kind of shopping that would embarrass a Kardashian,” Mr Wilkie said in parliament’s Federation Chamber.
“Sending millions of dollars of Australian charitable donations overseas is illegal in some circumstances,” he said.
Mr Wilkie also alleged Hillsong earns $80 million more in Australian annual income than it reports publicly.
He said the leaked financial records and documents were provided to the Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission under whistleblower protections, but they failed to act.
In response to the allegations, a Hillsong statement said they were made under parliamentary privilege and were “in many respects wrong” and it was disappointing Mr Wilkie made no effort to contact the church first.
“If he did so we would have answered his questions and provided him with financial records to address his concerns,” the Hillsong statement said.
“Hillsong has sought independent legal and accounting advice on these matters since the employee involved in the legal case made these claims, and we believe that we have complied with all legal and compliance requirements.”
Houston is fighting accusations he concealed his late father’s child sexual abuse and has pleaded not guilty to a charge of concealing the crime until his father’s death in 2004.
The case will resume in June.
Hillsong announced in April 2022 it had accepted Houston’s resignation after it was found he had breached the church’s moral code by having inappropriate relations with two women.
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Source by [earlynews24.com]