Norwich Catholic cathedral treasurer stole £222k
A former church treasurer stole £222,000 from St John the Baptist Catholic Cathedral in Norwich, to feed his gambling addiction, and has today been sentenced to 27 months in jail.
Rene Mugenzi was sentenced at Norwich Crown Court to 27 months in jail for defrauding the cathedral of just over £222,000 during a two-year period, after pleading guilty at an earlier magistrates court hearing in Norwich.
The 44-year old from Rwanda is described as a human rights activist, community organiser and politician on his Wikipedia page and in the past has stood as a candidate in both Parliamentary and local council elections.
Andrew Oliver, mitigating for Mr Mugenzi at Norwich Crown Court, said he realised his gambling addiction had spiralled totally out of control. He said Mr Mugenzi knows he has let many, many people down including the church, his faith and his family and he is extremely sorry for what he did.
Sentencing Mr Mugenzi to 27 months in jail, Judge Katharine Moore said he had been put in a position of trust and responsibility which he had grossly abused. It was a deliberate, repeated and serious breach of that trust and responsibility. The offence is so serious that only an immediate custodial sentence is appropriate, she concluded.
The Catholic Diocese of East Anglia said that as soon as the Fraud by Abuse of Position, which spread from April 2016 to May 2018, came to light, Mr Mugenzi was immediately told to resign from the position of treasurer. The cathedral authorities and the Diocese, reported the matter to Norfolk Police and co-operated fully with their subsequent investigation. The Charities Commission was also informed of a serious incident as soon as it became apparent and were kept updated regularly.
The Diocese has issued a wholehearted apology to the people of the Cathedral Parish over the failure of the parish finance committee and other colleagues to discover what was a sophisticated, deliberate and calculated fraud of cathedral funds.
Canon David Paul, the Cathedral Dean, said: “We are extremely saddened that such a fraud was committed by someone whom we trusted and put in a position of responsibility. But we are also truly sorry that this has happened and want to offer our apologies to all of those people who have supported the cathedral over the period in question and whose money has not gone to the purposes for which it was intended.
“The Diocese and the Cathedral Parish Finance Committee have now put more robust measures in place to ensure, as far as possible, it will not happen again. We have fully reimbursed all third-party charities, where some of the money given to us in second collections was intended to go. All the losses are now against cathedral funds. Fortunately, we have been able to recover some of the funds from our insurers to help mitigate the losses.”
A full investigation has been carried out by the Vicar for Finance, Deacon James Hurst. He has made far-reaching recommendations for every parish in the Diocese.
The Bishop of East Anglia, Rt Rev Alan Hopes, said: “I am very saddened that this has happened and understand how it could erode people’s trust in the Diocese’s stewardship of their generosity. However, I am confident that with the new structures that are being implemented with regard to finances across the Diocese it will make it more difficult for such an extensive fraud to occur again.”
Pictured top is St John’s Cathedral in Norwich and, above Rene Mugenzi (picture from Wikipedia by Quintessential82).