A Tongan pastor at the centre of a Aus$21 million financial scandal that brought his church in Sydney to its knees has been accused of passing bad cheques.
The Reverend Sione Pinomi of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga has been accused of issuing three cheques worth Aus$140,000 as donations to fundraising dinners for the Tokaikolo Church in Sydney.
The Rev Pinomi is alleged to have written a Aus$60,000 cheque after a group of dancers performed at a church fundraising dinner last month.
He is also alleged to have written a cheque for Aus$30,000 to bolster a donation made by another pastor on the same night
The cheques raised the amount of money raised on the night to Aus$170,000, news that was spread on Facebook
A source from the Tokaikolo Church told the Kakalu ‘o Tonga newspaper that the cheques had bounced.
The newspaper also reported claims that a cheque for Aus$50,000 written by Rev Pinomi at a similar function last year had also bounced
Kaniva Pacific was unable to get comments from the Tokaikolo Church or Rev Pinomi.
Rev Pinomi told Kakalu ‘o Tonga he was not authorised to release any information regarding the Tokaikolo or Pulela’a.
The leader of the Tokaikolo church in Sydney, Rev ‘Otuhiva Mapapalangi had this week in a Tongan news website warned the public about Rev Pinomi’s action.
Rev Mapapalangi said he was really disappointed with Rev Pinomi.
The Tongan Free Wesleyan Church in Australia, or Pulela’a, built a Aus$10 million church in Sydney, but the venture collapsed, leaving the church owing Westpac and a local loan company Aus$21 million.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Tongan community in Australia raised Aus$3 million to help build the church, but the money ran out before it was opened.
The church had a loan from Westpac, but when the money ran out it borrowed money from a private finance company that charged 72 percent annual interest.
Members of the church’s executive committee signed on as a personal guarantors for the loan.
Many church members have lost their homes and suffered financially because of the crisis.
At one stage Rev Pinomi said he hoped a trust fund registered in the Cayman Islands, would donate Aus$10 million.
On one occasion the members celebrated after Rev Pinomi told members their debts had been paid off by the Trust.
However, in January 2012, the church went into voluntary administration and later into receivership.
The financial crisis led to the loss of church property in Melbourne known as ‘Evangelio and one in Brisbane known as Tukulolo, which were sold by liquidators.
The Sydney church has now been sold to an Indian religious organisation, the Sant Nirankari Mission.
The loss of the church has forced members of the Tongan Wesleyan community to look for new church communities.