Page last updated at 09:28 GMT, Friday, 4 July 2008 10:28 UK

Allegations against deputy mayor

By Jonathan Josephs
BBC London News

Ray Lewis
Mr Lewis was a priest at St Matthews church in West Ham

The allegations against London's deputy mayor for young people are of a serious nature for a man now in such a position of responsibility.

They date back to his time as a vicar in east London in the late 1990s.

BBC London has been given details of three complaints of financial irregularities made against Ray Lewis.

One was that he received money from a man with learning difficulties. Another was that he owed a debt to a fellow priest.

In the third case, a female parishioner went first to the church authorities and then to the police after entrusting more than 25,000 to Mr Lewis.

Mr Lewis has had an eventful life which has seen him tackle a variety of different jobs.

Born in Guyana, he moved to London as a child and then endured an upbringing that has been described as "difficult".

In his early 20s, he went to Theological College after which he was ordained as a priest in the Church of England.

It was at his second church - St Matthews in West Ham, east London - that he met the people who allege the financial misdemeanours that have led to Thursday's allegations.

'Promise to invest'

It was in the mid-90s when Mary Massey says she gave Lewis the money because, she claims, he promised to invest it for her.

She claims that Lewis offered better returns on her cash than if she were to leave it in the building society.

The vicar apparently preached a message of poverty amongst other parishioners and gave the impression that he would use the money to set up some kind of a loan scheme.

The arrangement was described by the then-Archdeacon of West Ham, Michael Fox, as "very odd".

However for the first few months Mrs Massey says she received the regular interest payments that she had been promised.

When these payments stopped coming Mrs Massey's suspicions were raised. It was then that her trust in her parish priest came into question.

Boris Johnson and Ray Lewis being questioned by journalists on 3 July

It was after Mr Lewis left east London to take up a Ministry on the Caribbean island of Grenada that complaints were made. The money had not yet been repaid.

Mrs Massey raised concerns over what had happened to her money with the Archdeacon of West Ham.

Michael Fox advised that the allegation be taken to the police. After a police inquiry, which didn't lead to any charges, and a probe by the Diocese responsible for Mr Lewis's former parish, the money was eventually repaid in full.

Mr Lewis told BBC London that he and Mrs Massey had embarked on a joint investment, and were still friends. He denied being aware of any complaint from Mrs Massey.

One thing that is undisputed now is that the complaints raised serious concerns among first the Bishop of Barking and then his superior, the Bishop of Chelmsford.

As a result Mr Lewis was placed by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the Lambeth and Bishopsthorpe register - known as the Lambeth List - effectively barring him from public ministry and taking any post in the church.

Ray Lewis said on Thursday that he was not aware that he had been placed on the list, and had not applied for a post in the Church of England since the late 1990s.

Inquiry launched

Mr Lewis told BBC London on Thursday that it was "the first I've heard of" the allegations.

Mayor Boris Johnson moved quickly to launch an independent inquiry into the allegations.

The mayor said that the allegations "should not stop (Mr Lewis) from serving as my deputy Mayor".

The timing is certainly bad, just two months into Mr Johnson's mayoralty and when the Conservative Party is riding high in the polls and by-elections.

The news comes after last week's forced resignation of a mayoral adviser James McGrath.

Furthermore that incident came just days after Boris Johnson told the BBC that he doubted the existence of a memo about the budget for the 2012 London Olympics. The very same memo was publicly available on a government website.

This is certainly not the idea of City Hall power that Mr Johnson will have had when, just nine weeks ago, he became London's first million-vote mayor.


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