S.I.S.D.A.C. N.Z.'s multi-million dollar fraud exposed

The Samoan Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church (S.I.S.D.A.C.) has been taken off the Charities Register after an investigation shone light on the “gross mismanagement” and multimillion embezzlement activities.

A Charities Service report, published earlier in the week, outlined the entity’s poor financial mismanagement that allowed the unlawful use of the Church’s funds by Church officials and multiple shady multimillion investments.

The fraudulent activities came at the expense of almost exclusively Samoan families tithing large amounts of money in the name of serving God.

S.I.S.D.A.C. has no association with the Seventh Day Adventist (S.D.A.)

The Serious Fraud Office (S.F.O.) investigation was launched in 2015 after a referral from the Charities Service after a two-year probe identified a number of concerns and possible criminal activity within the entity.

The S.F.O. investigation concluded in 2017 and found the entity’s former financial administrator, Elizabeth Papu, had stolen over $1.6 million of the entity’s funds.

She was convicted to two years and nine months in prison.

However, Charities Services’ investigation found that Ms. Papu had misappropriated a further $766,895.

This was disputed by her father, Pastor Willie Papu, claiming Ms. Papu received the latter from “legitimate” sources such as the sale of her house.

Another employee, Joseph Stowers, the entity’s former treasurer, took $498,997 of the entity’s funds as “undeclared income”.

The investigation also found that Pastor Papu has also taken $84,031.32 of the entity’s funds for the personal benefit of himself and his family, and influenced the entity to pay $63,309.88 of his personal expenses.

He disputes both of the findings against him.

The investigating report also discovered that Sina Hunt took over $200,000 of the entity’s investment funds for her personal benefit.

Lastly, the investigation found that Pastor Willie Papu Junior took over $316,000 from both the entity’s investment funds and its World Committee bank account for his own personal benefit.

He said the funds were used either in support of the entity’s charitable purposes or were personal income for which he had paid tax.

“This is because the entity failed to keep proper or accurate financial records, did not have financial controls or other policies or processes in place, and had little to no oversight over individuals within the entity,” the Charities Service report reads.

“The entity and its officers repeatedly failed to invest the entity’s funds prudently, as they did not carry out adequate due diligence in relation to the entity’s proposed investments, and allowed Pastor Willie Papu and Sina Hunt, a member of the entity, to exercise an undue level of influence over the entity’s investment decisions.

“In addition, the entity’s officers breached their duties as officers of a charity because they failed to put themselves in a position where they could make decisions in the best interests of the entity.

“The entity’s poor investment decision-making has resulted in a significant loss of the entity’s funds”

Poor quality and highly risky ventures S.I.S.D.A.C. took part in include a $1 million investment into the One Coin Cryptocurrency scheme and another $1.7 million of the entity’s funds in WFE Capital, an offshore company based in Hong Kong.

“To date, the entity has impaired a total of $1,678,526 of funds that it has invested, in addition to the entity’s funds unlawfully used by Elizabeth Papu and Joseph Stowers,” the report reads.

“The Board also has concerns that further losses are possible from the $1.7 million the entity has invested in WFE Capital.”

Pastor Papu further recommended investing a further US$790,000 in WFE Capital in September 2019.

He took full responsibility for the loss of charitable funds in WFE Capital, admitting his role in recommending the WFE Capital investment.

Pastor Papu’s efforts to compensate the lost funds through investments include a total of $355,097, mostly gifted from members of SISDAC’s overseas churches.

The entity has also received around $500,000 from members of SISDAC’s overseas churches towards the funds lost on the OneCoin and WFE Capital investments.

S.I.S.D.A.C. was registered as a charity by the then Charities Commission.

The Church orated in the Samoan language oversees 10 parishes across the Auckland region, with churches throughout New Zealand, Australia, Samoa, American Samoa, and the United States

S.I.S.D.A.C. was led by its Head Pastor and Chief Executive, Pastor Willie Papu, until November 2017, when he was replaced by Pastor Meki Fesola’i.

“The Board is satisfied that it is in the public interest that the entity be removed from the Charities Register,” the Charities

“The Board has taken into account the mitigating actions the entity has taken to address the serious wrongdoing involving the entity and its officers.

“On several occasions, however, the entity has failed to follow changes in processes that it claimed were already implemented.”

Charities Services recommended that several officers of the entity be disqualified from being an officer for a certain period.

Pastor Papu and Stowers were recommended to be disqualified for four to five years, Pastor Fesolai for three to four years and Minister Faavae Gagamoe for two to three years.

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