Cathedral fraudster who took £235,000 must pay back £1

The Cathedral of St John the Baptist where Mugenzi was a volunteer treasurer. Picture: Wikimedia Com

The Cathedral of St John the Baptist where Mugenzi was a volunteer treasurer. Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Archant - Credit: Archant

A fraudster who took £235,000 from Norwich's Catholic Cathedral has been ordered to pay back £1 because he has no money left.

Rene Mugenzi siphoned off the cash while volunteering as the treasurer at St John the Baptist from 2016 to 2018.

He moved the money, much of which had been donated by the congregation and was designated for charity work, from the Cathedral's account into his own.

On Wednesday at a short Proceeds of Crime hearing at Norwich Crown Court, the prosecution and his defence team agreed that there was no money left and Mugenzi had no assets.

Judge Maureen Bacon QC said that of the £235,500 taken, Mugenzi would have to pay £1. He was given seven days to pay. 

Bishop of East Anglia the Rt Rev Alan Hopes said he was disappointed with the ruling which he said was "not proportionate to the scale of the theft from the Cathedral parish".

Alan Hopes for byline pic

Bishop of East Anglia, the Rt Rev Alan Hopes - Credit: Archant

He added: "It is in stark contrast to the support and generosity of so many parishioners at the Cathedral and across the Diocese when they learnt of the theft. We continue to be very grateful for this support.”

Mugenzi blamed his gambling addiction for his crime when he was sentenced to two years in prison in October last year.

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His barrister said the 45-year old had used gambling like a drug to deal with mental health issues. 

Rene Mugenzi arrives at Norwich Crown Court for sentencing. Photo: Archant

Rene Mugenzi arrives at Norwich Crown Court for sentencing. Photo: Archant - Credit: Sonya Duncan

In October the court was told that Mugenzi had full access to the cathedral's bank account and there were no checks in place.

Rene Mugenzi claimed his life would be under threat if it was revealed that he lived in Norwich, yet

Rene Mugenzi claimed his life would be under threat if it was revealed that he lived in Norwich, yet he posted public photos on Facebook of his life in Norwich. Photo: Facebook/Rene Mugenzi - Credit: Archant

The fraud was only discovered when the cathedral carried out a review into its finances in 2018 when it was struggling to pay its bills.

The church recovered around a quarter of the money from insurers.

Mugenzi initially avoided being named publicly for his crime as his solicitor said he was a political activist whose life was under threat by the Rwandan regime.

However, before he was sentenced, this newspaper successfully challenged the court order which had barred him being named.

Mugenzi is an opponent of the government in Rwanda, where he grew up, and in 2011 was warned by the Met Police that he could be a target for assassination.

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