Lighthouse loses court case again



A former bishop of the Lighthouse Chapel International (LCI), Larry Odonkor, on Friday walked out of an Accra Circuit court a free man after the court acquitted him of charges of stealing his social security contributions and income tax.

In siding with the accused, the court presided over by Ellen Ofei-Ayeh stated that the prosecution failed to prove the necessary ingredients of the alleged crime.

It is an end to 19 months of the case in which the LCI had alleged that Bishop Odonkor had pilfered funds that he should have used to pay his income tax and Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) contributions after he had written cheques for those purposes.

He was charged with two counts of dishonestly appropriating GH₵3,257.00 belonging to the church. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The court agreed with him and ruled that the prosecution failed to prove the intent to steal and that the accused had a legitimate claim of right to the money contrary to the church’s complaint to the police.

The judge also ruled that the prosecution failed to prove the salary of the accused which would have determined the accompanying tax and social security contributions.

The latest court decision is the third time the church has lost a case against Bishop Odonkor, who is one of six former ministers of the LCI, who sued the church in April 2021 for non-payment of their pension contributions, economic exploitation, and emotional abuse.

19225261 10155609636099691 5723387052803748311 n 1
Bishop Larry Odonkor in a photo with Bishop Dag Heward Mills, Founder of the UD Group of Churches

The church struck back, counter-sued all six, and filed criminal complaints against Mr Odonkor in Ghana and then later in Madagascar.

In August last year, the same court in response to an application for a ” submission of no case to answer” filed by the accused, ruled that the accused had only one count to answer for, and dismissed the other charge against him.

The judge said having considered all the evidence in record, she did not “find any evidence has been led by the prosecution that the accused person in April 2020 appropriated funds [to] the sum of GHC 3,527.00 dishonestly, belonging to LCI, as charged under count two. It is for this reason he is accordingly acquitted on this charge as no case has been made on this count.”

image0 3
Larry Odonkor and his lawyer, Kofi Bentil, had a fist bump in celebration after his acquittal at the Accra Circuit Court

Before his legal tussle with the church, Bishop Odonkor had headed branches of the church in South Africa and later, Madagascar. He spent at least a decade outside the country in the name of the LCI.

He returned to Ghana in January 2020 and was sent to Akim Oda in the Eastern Region to head the church’s branch there. He resigned four months later.

In December 2021, the LCI in Madagascar sued Bishop Odonkor, accusing him of selling the church’s Toyota Land Cruiser and pocketing the money. Lighthouse had asked the court to order Bishop Odonkor to cough up 80 million Ariary (GH¢157,200.00) in damages.

The court published its judgment in French, copies of which The Fourth Estate obtained and translated into English.

It said the court “hereby rules in favour of Larry Odonkor; declares all claims by Lighthouse Chapel International to be ill-founded and dismisses them all without prejudice…”


75443062 2525124224417066 8124101129110814720 n
Bishop Larry Odonkor holds a book during a sermon. Credit: Facebook/Larry Odonkor

The prosecution’s case against the former LCI bishop was that, from January 2020 to April 2020, Bishop Odonkor served as the head pastor of the Akim Oda branch of the church, and as such, he was responsible for the day-to-day administration of the branch.

As part of his responsibilities, he was to see to the payment of his SSNIT contributions and those of others working under him. In March, he allegedly wrote a cheque of GH₵8,527.00 dated March 10, 2020, comprising his February 2020 salary of GH₵5,000.00, together with his SSNIT contributions and income taxes of GH¢1,667.00 and GH¢1,850.00 respectively for the months of January 2020 and February 2020. The funds were deposited in his personal account. However, he failed to pay the SSNIT contributions and tax components of the amount drawn to the appropriate authorities.

Again, in April 2020, he wrote a cheque of GH¢8,527.00 comprising his salary of GH¢5,000.00 for the month of March 2020, together with SSNIT contributions and taxes of GH¢1,667.00 and GH¢1,850.00 respectively for the months of March 2020 and April 2020. However, he failed to remit the social security and tax portions to the relevant institutions.

The church, which is a complainant in the case, claimed that its attention was drawn to the issue in September 2020 and it was made to cough out the SSNIT contribution and the unpaid taxes with their penalties amounting to GH¢10,963.00. The prosecution also alleged that the accused admitted to signing the two cheques, the reason he was charged for the alleged crimes and dragged to court.

Court records show that Bishop Odonkor in his defence had said the amount in question was lower than his expected salary which was in arrears for over a month, but he was told to “hold on to this”, meaning he could expect more later.

He had also informed the human resource manager then that his previous salary was the equivalent of $1,000 in Madagascar and he had been upgraded to a level that he expected a salary of $1,200 or more, which was far in excess of what he was paid.

His lawyer also told the court that upon his resignation, Bishop Odonkor attempted to find out from an Archbishop of the church regarding any financial obligations he might have towards the church; however, he was told he had none.

Furthermore, the document showed that “there was no discussion or instruction given that Larry should pay a portion of the cheque to SSNIT or Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), indeed it was never mentioned. Usually when SSNIT payments are added to the duty of the bishop, he is given detailed instructions as provided in evidence. The entries on the vouchers were not made by Larry and he was not alerted to them at any time till this case started.”

Employees not responsible for PAYE deduction and payment 

The court documents also showed that in October 2021, the police wrote to the GRA to request information on the tax status of Bishop Odonkor.

The GRA in response said Bishop Odonkor had not paid any tax to the GRA ever since he registered for a tax identification number in 2020.

The GRA was also quick to point out that “the decision of the church, LCI to allow Mr Odonkor to collect the tax component with the pretense of paying same to GRA is not consistent with Section 114 of the Income Tax Act 2015 (Act 896) which requires [an] employer as a withholding agent, to deduct from income of employee PAYE and remit to GRA.”

SSNIT also responded to a police inquiry stating that no contribution was made in the name of Bishop Odonkor during the period in question. However, in September 2020, the church made payments to settle the arrears.

You may also read:

Lighthouse loses case against resigned bishop, Larry Odonkor

Lighthouse Chapel revokes car gift to former bishop, drags him to police



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related articles