Many of you who follow my Round Table discussions know that my mantra is made up of just two words: “Dialog matters!” But, I always clarify when people ask that the ONLY kind of dialog that matters is open, honest dialog. I have always tried to encourage that spirit of direct dialog here on our blog as well as any other time I’m given an opportunity to do so. But, when the conversations begin, there is also the risk of being used, lied to and mislead.
The key though, to our true character, is how we respond to these bad situations. I would like to take this chance therefore to respond in the way that I do best: Openly, honestly and candidly…
Over the years, I have interviewed a fair number of people who are linked to Africa in a variety of ways. One of those persons was Geoffrey Baker of Aid4Africa. Through his first interview in 2010 and his second interview and our connection through the social media platform Twitter; we formed a friendship and often discussed current issues facing the African continent, primarily human rights and sustainable development.
A couple of days ago, I noticed a comment left on the blog which called him a conman and a swindler. In an attempt to be fair, I tried asking the person who left the comment about the source of her information; but got no reply. So, I did a bit of investigation and found an article on Scotland’s Daily Record (which I will post in its entirety below) which was published in March of this year. That article led me to this article published about him in 2002. Yesterday is the first time I learned the truth about him, much to my dismay.
It turns out that Mr. Baker is in fact EVERYTHING that he professes to hate so much: Someone who steals from those who are orphaned, victims of war, the poorest people on the planet AND those who are moved to care enough to help them!!
There are few things worse than betrayal… but the one thing that IS worse than betrayal is when you make that very betrayal of the poorest children in Africa the way that you fund your daily life!
Although theft is wrong, Robin Hood is a hero because so many people can understand the robbing of the rich to care for the poor. But when you rob the poor to make yourself rich well… I think there is no other way to put things than the fact that you are directly serving the Devil himself. And, there is most probably a special seat in hell with your name on it.
Most of you have heard me say before that “any friend of Africa’s is a friend of mine.” Well, the reverse is also true: “Any enemy of Africa’s is also an enemy of mine.” I have dedicated my life to serving poor African women and their families. I have done and will continue to do whatever I am able to ensure that all Africans have their basic freedoms respected, a sustainable way to make a living and their human rights valued.
I know that I am just one woman and that my time and talents are limited. But my voice is not. So I scream this from my rooftop in the hope that it will inspire you to scream it from yours:
“To Mr. Baker and all of the other self-serving, lying, cheating, hateful pieces of garbage like you… LEAVE MY SISTERS AND THEIR CHILDREN ALONE!! YOU ARE NOT WELCOME ON AFRICAN SOIL AND WE WILL BEAT THE DRUM AND SHINE A LIGHT BRIGHTLY ON YOU EVERY TIME YOU ARE FOUND AMONG US!”
I would like it to be known that I have never given a penny, nor received one from Mr. Baker. I have only talked with him and agreed with what he professed to believe. It seems though, that lying about his beliefs is a job for him… and he’s become quite the trained professional! He has chosen to be the kind of man who lies to churches filled with people who actually want to do God’s work with their hands and wallets.
I heard a “man of the cloth” once say that we are bound and obligated to forgive those who show remorse and ask for forgiveness. But we are NOT to forgive those who don’t. I agree wholeheartedly. As this is not new behavior for Geoff, I will not forgive… nor will I forget.
But, I will continue to believe in people; because I know so many who are working tirelessly to alleviate poverty in Africa. I will not allow my hope to be crushed by greed or selfishness. I am not naïve; but I am as sure that there is good in the world as I am that there is bad.
The fact that we have dictatorships doesn’t mean that true democracy can’t exist. The fact that he lied and deceived so many, doesn’t mean that they didn’t really feel touched and want to help. The fact that there are men like Geoff Baker doesn’t overshadow the good work of men and women like Paul, Dominic, Freweini, Béatrice, Donna, Cori or the hundreds of others who are sincere and whole-hearted in their attempts to make the lives of women and children in Ghana, Eritrea, Uganda, Rwanda and South Africa better.
The existence of the evil doesn’t overshadow the glory of goodness done with a sincere heart.
I’m sorry for having introduced any of you to such a terrible man. But, I’m not sorry for having agreed with what turned out to be his lies. Because you see, I DO believe in sustainable development for Africa. I DO believe in empowering women through jobs. I DO believe in children being cared for and loved whether they are rich or the poorest of the poor. I also DO believe in dialog: open HONEST dialog.
The sad shame is that there are people like this who find people who also believe in what I do and then take advantage of their kindness and generosity. And worse yet, take advantage of those small African organizations which are actually desperately trying to take care of poor women and children day to day.
And to you Christine, a heart-felt and genuine thank you for being brave enough to step up and tell us the truth. Your voice and all of the voices here at Mama’s Round Table are so very important to the future of Africa. I am so grateful that you held up the torch and shone the light on the truth. Many of us are happy that you did.
I am happy to say that despite my disgust, revolt and utter disappointment in having realized yesterday that I was in a friendship based completely on lies; I am starting today with a smile on my face. Because, in my cup is coffee from Zimbabwe that a farmer who was paid a fair price for his beans. I will then publish this post telling the truth so that others won’t be fooled by a conman who uses African children’s sad stories as bait. I’ll continue my day by getting through the work on my desk, spending another day in year 11 of my dedication to African women’s cooperatives from Ghana to Rwanda.
Thank you to every customer who has ever subscribed to our coffee of the month club, ordered a basket or carving for serving as a daily reminder of how many people DO care. I treasure each of you today more than ever.
Here is the article I found on Scotland’s Daily Record:
Swindler accused of ripping-off orphans in South Africa is tracked down to Scottish bolthole
17 Mar 2013 08:12
GEOFFREY Baker was exposed for fleecing Scots churchgoers by the Sunday Mail 10 years ago and is now accused of duping charities in South Africa. He claimed to be in China but we found him in Clydebank.
Geoffrey Baker photo taken by Mark Anderson, courtesy of the Daily Record
Photo by: Mark Anderson
A CHARITY fraudster under investigation in South Africa has been tracked down to a Scottish bolthole by the Sunday Mail.
Geoffrey Baker is being probed by elite police in Johannesburg over claims he conned churches and
charities out of a fortune.
The 66-year-old is accused of stinging good causes who work with destitute kids by persuading them he was a fixer who could get them funding via his contacts.
Months down the line, Baker – who we first exposed in 2002 – would ask them for money to help with “insurance” for the scheme.
South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), known as the Hawks, are investigating a series of complaints about him.
One of the charities he allegedly duped said they received an email from Baker on Friday, claiming he was in Beijing on fundraising work. But we found him in a flat in Faifley, near Clydebank.
The conman could now be forced to travel to face criminal charges in South Africa, which has an
extradition treaty with the UK.
We first exposed Baker a decade ago when we told how he had reduced Scots churchgoers to tears with tales of his mercy missions to Kosovo – before fleecing them for thousands.
His latest spiel in South Africa involves his “contacts” Pastor Mick Mott and Pastor Dan, linked to a group called the Texas Oil Foundation.
Baker is the subject of a complaint from the Rhema church’s Hands of Compassion group, who work to aid poverty-stricken kids. Police are also investigating a claim from psychiatrist Leif Brauteseth, who claims he was duped and used to lend credence to Baker’s “foundation” called Aid 4 Africa.
South African attorney Gary Duke, who represents both parties, said: “In Rhema’s case, it’s because they have lost money. Dr Brauteseth believes he was horribly abused and used by Baker to
further his aim of trying to elicit funds out of people. There appears to be a lot of other people affected.
“Baker refuses to account to anyone about what happened to the money – there is always an excuse.
“There is always a reason he has to cancel a meeting at the last minute – usually something like he has broken his leg and can no longer travel.
“Apart from the criminal charges laid with the Hawks, we wish to serve a summons on Baker, which we will have to do via a UK court.
“He also professes to be a solicitor but we have checked with various authorities who have no record of a Geoff Baker.”
The Law Society of Scotland say Baker is not registered with them.
Duke said he feared “associates” of Baker were nothing more than
figments of his imagination.
Rhema pastor Alan McCauley said: “He first approached me in 2006 at our church in Johannesburg. He said he’d been coming to the church for some time and admired our work.
“He said he could help with funding. Nothing came of it immediately – but nor did he ask us for money. It was two years later he first asked us for cash.
“It was for about £3000, which he said would go towards an insurance policy related to the funding.
“He called it a risk policy. A second request was made in 2009, also in the region of £3000.
“The alarm bells started ringing when his promises were never fulfilled. Documentation was never forthcoming and he would never let us speak to the pastor in Texas – who we came to
suspect may not exist.
“We hope something can be done to stop other organisations being targeted like ours.”
Hawks captain Jan Judeel yesterday said: “There is a request between countries for certain information and inquiries are ongoing.” English-born Baker, who has lived in Scotland for decades, shares the flat in Faifleywith his South African second wife Jennifer.
He quotes an office in the Connal Building in West George Street, near Glasgow’s Queen Street station, as his business address – but a woman there said she had never heard of him.
We told in 2002 how Baker tricked members of the Open Door Fellowship in Bearsden, near Glasgow, and Paisley’s Assembly of God into giving him more than £18,000.
The former Salvation Army officer then fled his Glasgow home, owing a letting firm £9000. A businessman also told how the conman defrauded him of more than £45,000.
Baker served a sentence in Barlinnie prison for fraud in the 1990s. In 1981, he was convicted of a £200,000 charity con after persuading then employers, the Scottish Council for Spastics, to invest in a bogus promotion.
And the article from 2002:
THE H0LY C0NMAN; Swindling businessman pockets church cash destined for war ophans.
Byline: LORNA HUGHES EXCLUSIVE
THIS is the “Good Samaritan” who duped a church into handing over thousands of pounds to a mysterious pastor and a non- existent orphanage.
Geoffrey Baker reduced churchgoers to tears with graphic tales of rape camps and murder squads in war-torn Kosovo.
He claimed to have just returned from a mercy mission to the Balkans and begged members of Glasgow’s Open Door Fellowship to help the children at an orphanage run by Pastor John Grolsch.
One kind-hearted soul handed over pounds 3000 and dozens of other churchgoers gave him large cash donations.
But what they didn’t know was that Baker, 52, is a convicted fraudster who lies for a living.
He claimed to be a lawyer and accountant – but all his credentials are phoney – and also fleeced one couple out of pounds 10,000 for a “business deal”.
And when he was finally rumbled over the Kosovo cash, he fled his West End home owing more than pounds 9000 in rent.
Stunned parishioners of the Open Door church in Bearsden say they doubt the elusive Pastor Grolsch exists.
Others taken in by smooth-talking Baker have launched legal actions to get their cash back.
Baker appeared to be deeply religious and held prayer meetings at his home with wife Jennifer and when he gave a heart- rending talk to his church congregation about his fact- finding trip to the Balkans, they immediately agreed to help fund the orphanage.
Suspicions grew when Pastor Grolsch failed to turn up in Glasgow to show the church how their cash was spent.
Open Door’s Pastor Angus McAuley admitted: “We don’t know if anything he told us was true.”
Pharmacist Ian Mouat and wife Gillian gave Baker pounds 3000 for the orphanage collection and another pounds 10,000 as a loan.
Ian, of Kelvinside, said: “We were all taken in by this man. He’s certainly no Christian. He’s nothing but a conman.
“Geoff claimed he had travelled to Kosovo where he met Pastor Grolsch. He stood up during a Sunday service and told the entire congregation about the work this man was doing.
“He told us all about the orphaned children, rape camps that had been set up and the horrific effects of the civil war. We were all moved to tears.
“He said Pastor Grolsch needed money and, of course, everybody said they would help.”
Baker claimed he’d organised for Pastor Grolsch to come to Glasgow with videos to show the church how the money had been spent.
But the day before he was due to arrive, the Bakers said he had fallen down the steps of the aircraft after arriving in Corfu for a connecting flight to Glasgow and broken his leg.
Mysteriously, the videos and photographs of the orphanage had also gone missing.
Ian had become worried because he had already loaned Baker pounds 10,000 to cover a cash- flow problem for a business deal.
Ian said: “It sounds stupid now, but I trusted him and he said I would get the money back with interest.”
But, despite repeated attempts, Baker couldn’t come up with his friend’s money and the Mouats have since severed all ties with the church. The Open Door Fellowship are reluctant to discuss Baker and the orphanage cash.
Pastor McAuley said: “We never thought to check on what he told us. We never spoke to Pastor Grolsch and only got e- mails but I know that they can come from anywhere.”
He also claimed that church bosses had decided not to call in the police over the missing cash.
He said: “We took a decision to write it off and we have done.
“Very few of the congregation were aware of what happened.” Pastor McAuley admitted he knew of the pounds 10,000 that the Mouats had handed over to Baker.
He said: “If I had known about that in advance I would never have allowed it.”
But Ian Mouat is not the only one left out of pocket by the holy conman.
Lettings boss Gordon Shields is owed pounds 9000 after Baker failed to pay the rent on his three-bedroom home for a year.
Gordon said: “Everything was fine for a while and then rent cheque after rent cheque bounced.
“His reasons for not paying up went from the sublime to the ridiculous.
“He blamed it on his internet bank and then claimed he’d pay the money from his late father’s estate.
“When that never materialised, he said it was because his brother, who had to sign the cheque as a trustee was holidaying in Barbados. He also claimed that pounds 17,000 of his own money had been stolen and the Fraud Squad had ordered him not to use his bank account.
“Another time he said that he would be able to pay the money back because he’d just landed a job with the United Nations.”
Eventually, Gordon’s company was forced to take Baker to court to evict him but, just hours before the bailiffs arrived, he and Jennifer fled.
A neighbour said: “They just disappeared from the house early one morning without warning.
“They seemed like an ordinary couple although they were obviously deeply religious. Their front room had bibles everywhere and crosses on the wall.”
In 1981, Baker was convicted of a pounds 200,000 charity fraud after persuading his then employers, the Scottish Council for Spastics, to invest in a bogus promotion with the BBC kids programme, Multi- Coloured Swap Shop. He duped the council into buying 148,000 Swap Shop scarves with the proceeds going to charity but the programme- makers knew nothing of the agreement.
Baker was rumbled when he kept putting off “meetings” with the BBC to discuss the deal.
He admitted the fraud at Edinburgh Sheriff Court and was sentenced to 240 hours of community service.
Nine years later, Strathclyde police launched an investigation after cheques disappeared from a building firm Baker worked for.
Businessman Bill Hislop left him in charge of his roofing firm when he went on holiday and came back to find the firm in financial difficulties.
Bill said: “He told me he was in the Salvation Army and his Bible was left lying in the office. I trusted him.”
Baker and Jennifer are now living in Glasgow city centre. He is using an office in The Connell Building in West George Street to pick up mail.
When confronted by the Sunday Mail, he insisted that Pastor Grolsch and the orphanage existed and he had handed over all the money collected.
But he was unable to give us any telephone numbers for the home or Grolsch or anyone who knew him.
He claimed: “There are no phones in Kosovo and I don’t want to compromise him in any way.”
Baker also said his fraud conviction was “in the past” and he insisted that he intended to pay back the Mouats and Gordon Shields.
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