Sri Lanka Express

Federal agents raid televangelist Benny Hinn's offices in Texas

"Tax evasion and general fraud against government."
Hassina Leelarathna
May 1, 2017

The Texas headquarters of well-known televangelist Benny Hinn (real name Toufik Benedictus Hinn) who has thousands of followers in Sri Lanka and South India and had connections in the past with the SL consul general’s office in Los Angeles was raided by federal agents, April 26.

Reports said criminal investigators from the Internal Revenue Service agents armed with a search warrant and United States Postal Inspectors were seen coming and going in and out of his headquarters in Grapvine in north Texas. They were seen taking dozens of boxes and other items out of the building and putting them in trucks, local new channels said. Hinn was reportedly being investigated for financial crimes against the government, including tax evasion.
Pastor Benny Hinn conducting a meeting in the conference room of the SL consulate in Los Angeles, December 2010.  On his right is CG Jeff Gunawardane.
“We are primarily investigating Title 26 which is tax evasion and general fraud against the government," said Special Agent Michael Mosely of the IRS.

Hinn is famous for his “Miracle Crusades” in crowded stadiums where he places his hands on people with terminal illnesses and various handicaps and declares them cured by his supernatural powers.  Hinn has been accused of defrauding  people for millions of dollars by luring the sick and desperate with fake healings, false prophecies, and promises of fortune.

Benny Hinn’s net worth is estimated at around $100 million, not including royalties he earns from books and other private enterprises.   The pastor has defended his lavish lifestyle, which includes private jets and luxury mansions, saying: “The Lord wants us to follow His righteous life, but yet we have to exist in the 21st century. You can’t be going about riding a bicycle and to travel the world … that is not smart."

In a documentary aired in 2011, NBC Dateline found Hinn using tax-free income from his ministries to bankroll  $2,700-a-night hotel suites, a private jet that costs more than $112,000 a month, and shopping at high-end Beverly Hills stores.   



















As for his claims of miracle healings, the investigative news magazine concluded that “there was never one complete record that would suit the criteria for a documented miracle healing.”

His televised “This Is Your Day,” among the most-watched Christian programs in the world, reaches Sinhala and Tamil-speaking audiences in Sri Lanka via the God TV channel based in Colombo.  His teachings are also propagated by local evangelists.  Hinn has a regional office in Madhya Pradesh India and a large following in Tamil Nadu.

Last month’s raid was not the first time the IRS has investigated the global pastor. A similar tax-related investigation was launched in 2005. In addition, the Senate Finance Committee investigated his operations but cleared the televangelist along with half a dozen other pastors in 2007 who had been suspected of government fraud.

In December 2010, at the invitation of then Sri Lankan Consul General in Los Angeles Jeff Gunawardane Hinn conducted a meeting at the consulate premises to discuss the CG's participation in a business expo.  Also present were Raju Rasiah of Raju Rasiah Rare and Exotic Jewels, singer Rajiv Nandakumaran, Shanmuganathan Vaithialingam of the consulate, and Jayam Rutnam.  At the time, Mr. Gunawardane was said to be making arrangements for pastor Hinn to make a trip to Sri Lanka but the CG was recalled by Colombo and left his position shortly thereafter.

   After the April 26 raid, Benny Hinn Ministries said in a Facebook post that    they were fully cooperating with the IRS and released the following statement.

  "As has been widely reported, Benny Hinn Ministries is cooperating fully with the governmental entities that are reviewing certain operations of the Church," the statement read. "The ministry has undergone intense scrutiny over the years, and we remain confident that there will again be a positive and speedy outcome in the days ahead."