A former Church of England official accused of defrauding a charity of more than £5m has been accused of landing more planes than Alan Whicker, the late global broadcaster.
Martin Sargeant, 52, who was chief operating officer of the Diocese of London from 2008 until his retirement in August 2019 and clerk of the City Church Grants Committee, is accused of defrauding the charitable trust of around £5.2m over 10 years .
He is also accused of money laundering after he allegedly used the money for the trust, set up in 1891 to fund the restoration of churches, on gambling and more than 180 British Airways flights.
His alleged jet-setting led to a comparison with Whicker, who presented Whicker’s World, which ran from 1958 to 1994, first on the BBC and later on ITV.
Whicker, who won two Baftas and was awarded a CBE for services to broadcasting before his death in 2013, reported on stories around the world, including interviews with Haitian dictator François Duvalier and US billionaire John Paul Getty.
Malachy Pakenham, prosecuting, described Sargeant’s alleged activities as “quite an achievement”, telling Westminster Magistrates’ Court: “I would imagine that even Alan Whicker in his day would not have flown as many flights as this defendant did in this period.”
Sargeant appeared in the dock on Friday, where he spoke to confirm his name, date of birth and address in Dudley, West Midlands. He gave no indication of his plea when charges of fraud by abuse of position and money laundering were brought against him.
The fraud charge alleges that Sargeant abused his position as operations manager to win the amount between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2019.
He is accused of fraudulently applying for grant funding to dysfunctional churches in order to steal the money by transferring it through church bank accounts he controlled through work.
It is alleged that the money was subsequently deposited into accounts under his name, which he controlled and then used. Pakenham said he spent the money on “personal entertainment or frivolous things like gambling”.
It was decided the charges were too serious to be dealt with in a magistrates court and they would be sent to Southwark Crown Court, where Sargeant is due to appear on September 2.
He was granted bail on the condition that he does not leave the UK, live at his address and refrain from contacting any Diocese of London staff.