Hillsong Chief Faces Fair-Trading Inquiry
by Jennifer Sexton
The chairman of the influential Hillsong Church group, Brian Houston, is under investigation for breach of reporting requirements after failing to lodge financial statements that would reveal his earnings and assets.
The Office of Fair Trading was yesterday preparing a letter asking why the association through which Mr Houston received all income from the church, book-writing and speaking, on the lucrative Pentecostal circuit had failed to rile financial accounts for three years.
A spokesman for the OFT said Leadership Ministries Incorporated, of which Mr Houston and wife Bobbie are directors, was incorporated. in October 2001 but had so far lodged no financial statements.
Under the NSW Associations Incorporation, Act LMI must report annual income and expenditure, total assets and liabilities the number of employees and any mortgages and charges, the spokesman said.
The Australian reported last week that Mr and Mrs Houston sold two properties to the not-for-profit association for a total personal gain of $693,000.
LMI paid Mrs Houston $650,000 in February 2002 for an apartment in the same block ,as Jamie Packer’s pad on Bondi Beach, in Sydney’s east, and last year paid the couple $780,000 for a 1.278ha property on the Hawkesbury river, north of Sydney. Hillsong Church Ltd’s accounts noted last year that the church paid LMI $69,041 for contracted services.
A church spokeswoman said.. “These were purchased at market value based on independent valuations. LMI properties are used for ministry purposes in a similar way that many churches or ministries would provide a manse for their ministers.
“This includes accommodation for visiting ministers, short-term housing for people in need, pastor’s retreats, religious training and events.”
The spokeswoman said LMI allowed Mr and Mrs Houston “to contribute financially back to the church and other charities dedicated to helping people”