Christianity Today reports,

Founder of World’s Largest Megachurch Convicted of Embezzling $12 Million

(UPDATED) South Korean pastor David Yonggi Cho bought stock from son, evaded taxes.

Update (Feb. 25): On Sunday, David Yonggi Cho told his Yoido congregation that his conviction was the hardest day of his 50 years of ministry, and said, “God forbid, if God calls me back today, I will still be able to go to the Kingdom of God,” reports The Gospel Herald.

The outlet, which describes itself as “the world’s largest pan-denominational Chinese Christian news provider,” notes other details of the 78-year-old’s Sunday sermon.

—–

The founding pastor of the world’s largest Pentecostal congregation has been sentenced to three years in prison for embezzling 13 billion won (US$12 million) in church funds.

David Yonggi Cho, 78, founded Yoido Full Gospel Church, an Assemblies of God-affiliated denomination that has grown to more than 1 million members. Last year, CT noted how the pastor emeritus faced indictment for an alleged stock scheme with his son.

Last Thursday, the Seoul pastor was convicted of embezzlement as part of a scheme in which he arranged for the church to buy stock from his son Cho Hee-jun at more than three times the market price.

Hee-jun was sentenced to three years in prison for colluding with his father. Hee-jun, 49, previously served as chairman of the Yeongsan Christian Cultural Center.

Church administrators warned David Cho against purchasing the stock at an inflated price, but the pastor said he had to help his son out of a tight spot,according to Cho Hee-jun’s arraignment document. Cho was also convicted of evading 3.5 billion won (US$3.2 million) in taxes, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Church elders have also accused the pastor of embezzling additional funds.

The Seoul Central District Court, which handed down its sentence Thursday, ordered Cho to pay a 5 billion won (US$4.7 million) fine. Cho’s prison sentence was suspended five years; Hee-jun was jailed immediately.

Cho first came under investigation in 2011, when church elders accused him of embezzling $20 million. Cho also has been criticized for privatizing church assets. CT previously reported on the investigation of Cho, and noted in 2006 that Yoido Full Gospel had selected Lee Young-hoon to replace Cho as head pastor.

Source: By Ruth Moon, Founder of World’s Largest Megachurch Convicted of Embezzling $12 Million, Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/february/founder-of-worlds-largest-megachurch-convicted-cho-yoido.html, Posted 24/02/2014 12:15PM. (Accessed 26/02/2014.)

The Huffington Post reports,

Founder Of World’s Largest Megachurch, Convicted Of Embezzling $12 Million, 

David Yonggi Cho, founder of South Korea’s Yoido Full Gospel Church, has been sentenced to three years in prison for embezzling $12 million in church funds, Christianity Today reported on Monday.

Allegations arose in November of last year when 30 church elders held a press conference accusing Cho and his family of stealing millions in church donations dating back to the 1990s. The elders enumerated multiple instances of Cho’s dishonesty that involved him borrowing and never returning funds, acquiring enormous church donations without disclosing what they were being used toward and even taking an $18 million severance pay when he stepped down as head pastor in 2008.

One former church elder, Ha Sang-ok, was present at the press conference and urged Cho to come forward.

“A sect leader might violate the commandments and do as he wishes, but a pastor cannot do that. Over the past 14 years, I have met with Rev. Cho many times to try to persuade him to repent and return to being a great pastor, but the corruption has continued. That’s why I had no choice but to disclose it to the outside world

On February 21, Seoul Central Court found Cho guilty of embezzlement from encouraging church officials in 2002 to buy stock owned by his son at four times the market value, according to Yohap News Agency. In addition to spending three years in prison, Cho will pay $4.6 million in fines as part of his sentence, though if the church elders were right this is still just a fraction of the total funds he stole.

This is not the first time Cho has been involved in scandal. In 2011, church elders accused the pastor of embezzling $20 million and privatizing church assets.

Yoido Full Gospel Church is an Assemblies of God-affiliated congregation and has grown exponentially since 1958 when Cho founded it. The church draws hundreds of thousands of worshippers to every service, according to PBS, making it the largest megachurch in the world.

Despite the recent scandals, Cho, 78, was once a highly respected pastor in Korea and around the world. From PBS:

Pastor Cho is one of the most revered evangelists in Korea. He was a Buddhist until he rejected his religion when he was near death from tuberculosis. He says that’s when Jesus Christ appeared to him in the middle of the night and told him to preach the gospel. So he did. When the country was suffering in poverty and desperation after the Korean War, he preached the gospel of hope through prayer.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/25/david-yonggi-cho-embezzlement_n_4849335.html, David Yonggi Cho, Founder Of World’s Largest Megachurch, Convicted Of Embezzling $12 Million, Huffington Post, 25/02/2014 9:01 am EST, Updated: 25/02/2014 12:59 pm EST. (Accessed 26/02/2014.)