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Hillsong under investigation by regulator over leaders' lavish spending



Hillsong is under investigation by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC).

The regulator said the Pentecostal megachurch was under investigation after allegations to the contrary were aired in parliament yesterday.

"Although it was stated in Parliament that the ACNC has not acted, I can confirm that we are investigating concerns raised about Hillsong Church charities," ACNC Commissioner Sue Woodward said in a statement.

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"Hillsong has stated publicly that it is fully cooperating with regulatory authorities."

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie used parliamentary privilege to accuse the church of tax evasion, fraud and money laundering.

The bulk of the allegations are centred around Brian Houston, the founder who stepped down from the church last year.

Wilkie claimed Houston used private jets, took expensive family holidays and made lavish purchases with church money.

"Hillsong followers believe the money they put in the poor box goes to the poor," Wilkie said.

"These documents show how that money is actually used to do the kind of shopping that would embarrass a Kardashian."

An estimated 43,000 Australians go to Hillsong churches each week.

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Other senior church figures allegedly received expensive watches, including current global senior pastor Phil Dooley and former pastors Joel and Julia A'Bell.

Wilkie alleged the documents he was citing came from a whistleblower.

But Woodward also denied claims the ACNC had received a whistleblower disclosure about Hillsong.

"If a whistleblower of a charity wants protection, or is concerned about possible harm as a result of making a disclosure, they must raise concerns with an agency deemed to be an eligible recipient," she said.

"The ACNC is not an eligible recipient and we are not able to provide protection."

In a statement, Hillsong said the claims made by Wilkie were "out of context" and related to "untested allegations made by an employee in an ongoing legal case".

Hillsong is based in Sydney's Hills district, but claims 150,000 weekly congregants in churches around the world.

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