Pastor Lawrence Nii Narku Odonkor, former pastor of Lighthouse Chapel International (Akyem Oda branch), who was accused of stealing over GH¢7,000 belonging to the church, has been acquitted and discharged.
Appearing before an Accra Circuit Court earlier, Pastor Odonkor pleaded not guilty to two counts of stealing and for dishonestly appropriating the Church’s GH¢7,054 meant for the payment of his own SSNIT contributions and taxes.
The Court presided over by Mrs Ellen Ofei Ayeh, in her judgment delivered on Friday, September 15, 2023, held that although there was appropriation on the part of Pastor Odonkor, same was not done dishonestly.
According to the Court, at the time of resigning from the church, Pastor Odonkor asked a senior bishop whether he had any financial obligation, but the response was no.
The Court, therefore, acquitted, and discharged Pastor Odonkor after he went through full trial.
Pastor Odonkor was among six pastors who sued the Lighthouse Chapel over their Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) contributions.
Meanwhile, sources at the church say they would scrutinise the entire judgement and appeal against it.
The prosecution’s case was that the accused, who was responsible for the day-to-day administration of the branch, signed cheques and filled vouchers in March and April of 2020 for his salary, which comprised his salary, SSNIT and tax components.
According to prosecution, even though it was clearly stated on the vouchers and cheques that he filled and signed them, those specific sums of money “were” for the payment of SSNIT contributions and taxes, he deposited them in his personal accounts and failed to pay the tax components and SSNIT contributions.
The church had to later pay those SSNIT contributions and taxes with penalties.
The church, after the payment, lodged complaint with the Police.