AFTER Chris Oyakhilome of Christ Embassy and the late Temitope Joshua, the founder of Synagogue Church of All Nations, David Oyedepo, the founder and general overseer of Living Faith Church Worldwide, is the latest Nigerian mega-preacher found to have set up a family offshore company in the British Virgin Islands.
Mr Oyedepo’s offshore company popped up as part of the ongoing global Pandora Papers reporting project, led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and in which Premium Times is a key participant.
The project involved 600 journalists from 150 news organisations around the world sorting and analysing a trove of almost 12 million confidential files, tracking down and interviewing sources, and adding context using public records and other documents.
The leaked files were retrieved from some offshore services firms around the world that set up shell companies and other offshore entities for clients, many of them influential politicians, businesspersons, and criminals seeking to conceal their financial dealings.
In August 2007 Mr Oyedepo contracted the services of Business Centrum Limited, a London-based agent, to help him set up a company in the infamous tax haven for him and his immediate family. Business Centrum subsequently subcontracted Trident Trust Group, one of the world’s leading secrecy enablers and one of the most notorious providers of offshore corporate and financial services.
The company, Zadok Investments Limited, was set up on August 20, 2007, with 50,000 ordinary shares with a value of $1.00 each. Although the directors of the company are Mr Oyedepo and his two sons – David (junior) and Isaac, every member of Mr Oyedepo’s family are listed as shareholder.
Mr Oyedepo and his wife, Faith, are the largest shareholders with 30 per cent of shares each. His children – David (junior), who in 2016 was appointed resident pastor of the headquarters of the church, known as Faith Tabernacle, has 10 per cent while Isaac, who is the resident pastor of the church’s branch in Maryland, the United States of America, also has 10 per cent of the shares.
Love and Joy, two daughters of the cleric, were similarly given 10 per cent shares each.
The documents did not reveal the exact businesses and transactions the offshore company was set up to conduct. The entity however appears to be the family’s investment vehicle under which the family’s wealth is warehoused for offshore management. When reached via his personal email address, Mr Oyedepo did not respond to questions sent to him seeking his comments. We also sent the questions to the publicised emails of his church, including that of the church’s branch in Maryland. Some of the emails returned undelivered while we did not receive any response for those that delivered. The telephone number Mr Oyedepo listed in company documents failed to connect.
Mr Oyedepo may have tapped the name of his offshore company from the Bible. According to the books of 2 Samuel, 1 King and Ezekiel, Zadok was a loyal priest to the biblical King David. He was instrumental in helping David suppress the rebellion of his son, Absalom.
And he was also helpful to the enthronement of Solomon as David’s successor being that he was the priest that anointed Solomon’s head with oil at Gihon, which effectively made him his father’s successor.
After Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, Zadok was the first high priest of the temple.
An entrepreneurial cleric
While the cache of documents did not reveal what type of business the company was set up for, some of the documents revealed that the company was still active at least as recently as 2016 when Trident Trust filed a resolution of the company’s board revalidating its list of directors.
Meanwhile, Mr Oyedepo, who felt “insulted” by his $150 million valuations by Forbes Magazine in 2011, is one of the main proponents of the prosperity gospel in Christendom and encapsulates this by his myriad of entrepreneurial endeavours.
“Some fellow said we are worth $150 million, I said that’s an insult. $150 million? That’s an insult. I’m worth Philippians 4:19”, he said while referring to the Forbes valuation.
Philippians 4:19 reads: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
Recently, while reacting to reports that some of the church’s pastors were sacked without benefits, Mr Oyedepo, who described the sacked pastors as “unfruitful” and “blatant failure”, said his church had never lacked money.
“Money? Nonsense! We’ve never lacked it and yet we’ve never prayed for it. We are just simply obeying God and he is backing up what he asks us to do.”
“Obedience will turn you to a living wonder. Just obey God. Have you seen us raise a prayer point of Oh God send us money?” he asked later during the speech.
Outside his evangelical work, he is mainly known as the founder of one of Nigeria’s most expensive universities, Covenant University. He also owns Landmark University, in Omu-Aran, Kwara State.
He also owns Faith Academy Limited alongside his wife, Faith. Faith Academy Limited is the company that runs the highbrow boarding secondary school that goes by the same name.
Mr Oyedepo is also known for his acquisition of at least four private jets which include, a Gulfstream V jet, said to be worth at least $30 million, two other Gulfstream planes and a Bombardier Challenger aircraft, which he operates using another of his companies, Dominion Air Limited.
Dominion Air Limited was set up in 2005 and his second son, Isaac, is listed as one of its directors.
Mr Oyedepo is also the owner of Hebron Oil Limited and a slew of other businesses mostly located in his Canaanland estate in Ota, Ogun State. Another company, Biblematch Media Limited, has David Oluwamakinde Oyedepo and Olukemi Omolola Oyedepo as directors.
Nigerian pastors and tax havens
PREMIUM TIMES had in 2013 reported how Chris Oyakhilome, one of Africa’s most popular pastors, secretly incorporated Gmobile Nigeria, Limited, an offshore company for his family in the British Virgin Islands.
A business associate of the pastor told this newspaper at the time that some directors in the company held shares on behalf of the pastor’s daughters, Sharon and Charlyn, who were then teenagers. The shareholders listed in the documents included Oyakhilome’s wife at the time, Anita; another pastor in his organization, Thomas Amenkhienan; a business associate, Aigobomian Inegbedion; and another British Virgin Islands company, GTMT International Group Limited. In 2016, another popular pastor, T.B. Joshua, was also exposed for secretly setting up an offshore business entity.
Files obtained by PREMIUM TIMES from the massive leaked data of a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, had shown that Mr Joshua and his wife, Evelyn, owned Chillon Consultancy Limited, a company incorporated on June 20, 2006, at the British Virgin Island (BVI). Both owners owned one ordinary share each, although the company, with registration number 1033675, was authorised to issue a maximum “50,000 no par value Shares of a single class.”
The pastor died on June 5, this year, and his wife has been battling some congregation members over the management of the church’s assets. Oyakhilome