This is London, Sep. 10, 2002
The religious group, which is hoping to transform Gravesend’s EMD cinema into a place of worship, is now being investigated by the Charity Commission.
The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), which is a registered charity, is being investigated for financial foul play, issues over child protection and discrepancies in its constitution.
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A spokesman from the Charity Commission, which regulates and oversees registered charities in the country, said the inquiry was set up when media attention highlighted the UCKG and its involvement in the short life of Victoria Climbie.
The eight-year-old attended the church in Finsbury Park, north London and its pastor, Alvaro Lima, admitted he was concerned about her welfare, yet he failed to contact social services about his concerns.
The spokesman said: “We uncovered further concerns, so we opened up an inquiry to look at them in detail.”
Already the commission has told UCKG to speak to child experts to help them set up an official child protection policy.
But the commission’s investigation into the UCKG has also highlighted discrepancies in finances, including money going across to a sister church in Portugal.
UCKG hopes to make sweeping changes to the cinema in King Street, which closed last Thursday.
It wants to create a conference centre, exhibition hall and place of worship in the building, along with career training, counselling and library facilities.
The group has held three meetings a day at the cinema for four months.
It refused to confirm whether it leased the building or planned to buy the building if its application to Gravesham Council (http://www.gravesham.gov.uk) is successful. The cinema’s owners were unavailable for comment.
A UCKG spokesman said: “The UCKG HelpCentre, in Gravesend, was established in response to frequent requests from our members in the Kent area.
“We are sure the UCKG will bring many benefits to the community, just like it has done wherever our centres are based.”
She claimed the commission’s inquiry was over but the Charity Commission said it would not be completed until the end of October.