Prosperous pastor Benny Hinn flew into Brisbane a multimillionaire. He left, 28 hours and three shows later, an estimated $800,000 richer.
The Queensland capital was a goldmine for the flamboyant televangelist who left with cash, cheques and the bank account and credit card details of more than 50,000 Australians fans.
Some attendees, who travelled from as far away as Hong Kong and Perth, handed over gold earrings and wedding rings instead of cash.
An Australian Taxation Office spokeswoman said Pastor Hinn’s Australian haul — part of an estimated $110 million donated to the World Healing Centre Church each year — was seen as a “love offering”.
“The tax office is unable to comment on individual tax matters,” the spokeswoman said.
“However gifts received by churches aren’t usually tax-exempt unless they’re given in a personal capacity. It’s a very complicated issue.”
An Australian Customs Service spokeswoman said Pastor Hinn’s visa allowed him to leave the country two hours after his 3pm show on February 16.
He travelled aboard his $36 million Gulfstream jet to Auckland, part of a 27-stop world tour expected to generate more than $10 million.
The 105,000 Australians who attended Pastor Hinn’s shows in 1998 were believed to have donated more than $1 million.
Brisbane attendees at his February 15 and 16 shows were urged to give as much as $10,000 each.
Conservative estimates place the Australian donations, minus merchandise sales, at $800,000.
Pastor Hinn says he is accountable to God and authorities which oversee not-for-profit organisations.
But on November 6, the US Senate Committee on Finance announced he would be investigated.
Senator Chuck Grassley said he believed Hinn, and other wealthy pastors, had experienced personal gain through tax-exempt work.
It was believed Pastor Hinn had profited from financial donations.
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