Offshore bank charged with fleecing evangelical investors

An offshore bank founded four years ago by an ex-preacher may have bilked North American evangelicals of over $200 million in a scandal that, according to Saturday Night magazine, is “shaping up to be one of the biggest and most bizarre scams ever to hit the secretive world of offshore investing.” The FBI is investigating allegations against the First International Bank of Grenada, which targeted members of evangelical churches and institutions, and the Cambridge International Bank and Trust, which is owned by Langley resident David Rowe and recently cancelled a meeting with its investors. The story quotes an unnamed faculty member at Langley’s Trinity Western University, and notes that, while the depositors came from all income groups, “most shared a distrust of the secular state in general and financial institutions in particular… Much of the attraction of First Bank — like that of all offshore banks — lay in its secrecy. But it also targeted Christian groups with marketing material that played on their particular beliefs and fears. A shaky promotional video for the bank shows Van Brink awkwardly explaining how anyone can get rich by investing in offshore companies. He says he believes God meant us all to have the kind of freedom that comes with wealth. He briefly mentions investment opportunities but seems to focus mostly on how quickly believers can become rich thanks to the various absurdly high interest rates offered by his bank. He calls the people in the audience ‘friends’ and grins at particularly dubious points, such as the part where he explains how depositors are fully protected by something called the International Deposit Insurance Corporation, which, according to the FBI, is a bogus — if impressive-sounding — company. His tone is uncertain and his speech hesitant when he talks about the business of banking. But he comes to life as he moves to topics closer to his heart, such as his personal goals. His object in life, he declares with a sudden childlike grin, is to help other God-fearing members of the middle class — ‘little guys,’ he calls them — cut loose the bonds of financial necessity that blight their lives. Other sales reps used higher-pressure tactics, saying the government and banks conspired to keep good Christians poor.”

See the July issue of BCCN for a story about similar recent con artists, and possible theological and practical responses to their schemes.