A former Church of England official was accused of clocking up more flights than Alan Whicker as he appeared in court charged with defrauding a charity of more than £5 million.
Martin Sargeant worked as operations manager for the church’s Diocese of London from 2008 until his retirement in Aug 2019, and was clerk of the City church grants committee.
The 52-year-old is accused of defrauding the charitable trust – which is chaired by the Archdeacon of London and set up by an Act of Parliament in 1891 to support and fund the restoration of churches – of about £5.2 million over the course of a decade.
Mr Sargeant is also charged with money laundering after allegedly spending the money on gambling and flying more than 180 times with British Airways.
This prompted a comparison to the broadcaster, who died in 2013 and reported from all over the globe in his show Whicker’s World.
Malachy Packenham, prosecuting, described the alleged travel as “quite an achievement” and told Westminster Magistrates’ Court: “I should imagine even Alan Whicker in his day wouldn’t have clocked up as many flights as this defendant did over this period.”
Money spent on ‘frivolous things like gambling’
Mr Sargeant appeared in court to confirm his name, date of birth and address. He gave no indication of a plea when charges of fraud by abuse of position and money laundering were put to him.
The fraud charge alleged that he abused his position as operations manager to make a gain of roughly £5.2 million between Jan 1 2009 and Dec 31 2019.
He is accused of fraudulently requesting grants for funding for dysfunctional churches to steal the money by transferring funds through church bank accounts he controlled as part of his job.
The money was then allegedly funnelled into accounts he controlled and that were in his name, before Mr Sargeant spent it on “personal entertainment or frivolous things like gambling”, said Mr Packenham.
Magistrates decided that the charges were too serious to be dealt with in the magistrates’ court and sent the case to Southwark Crown Court, where Mr Sargeant will appear on Sep 2.
He was granted bail on condition that he does not leave the UK, resides at his address and does not contact any employee of the Diocese of London.