Lawyer releases details of ‘Taming the Tiger’ investigation

by Gavin Drake

THE senior lawyer who chaired an independent investigation into claims that Tony Anthony fabricated his life story has today confirmed that the shamed evangelist was at school in Finchley, north London, at the time he claims to have been studying Kung-Fu in China.

John Langlois OBE made the disclosure in a no-holds-barred response to an open letter from the informal Research Group that first put forward evidence that Tony Anthony’s story was false. He said that his obligations to the Body of Christ took precedence over any gagging order.

Anthony’s book, Taming the Tiger, has sold more than 1.5 million copies in 25 countries since it was first published in 2004. On the back of it he established a charity, Avanti Ministries Ltd, and has travelled the world telling his “story” in prisons, schools and churches.

In July, the Evangelical Alliance and Avanti Ministries issued a joint statement confirming that “large sections of the book Taming the Tiger, and associated materials, which claim to tell the true story of Tony Anthony’s life, do not do so.”

Since then, the trustees and directors of Avanti Ministries announced that they were closing the charity down; and Tony Anthony has attacked the findings of the report stating: “I continue to stand wholeheartedly by the truth of my life story.”

In response to Anthony’s continued insistence that his story is true, the Evangelical Alliance has come under increasing pressure to publish the inquiry panel’s full report; but has maintained that it cannot do so because of a legally binding agreement with Avanti Ministries Ltd. EA’s general director Steve Clifford said last month: “Sadly the Avanti board’s decision to close the ministry upon receipt of the report and their refusal to publish the report which we have requested they do, has left the situation, at present, in an unsatisfactory position.  My hope is that in the coming weeks the matter will become clearer.

He added: “Avanti can release the report at any time but have declined to do so. For legal reasons the Alliance cannot release the report.

“In this current situation, Avanti have chosen to respond through their solicitor rather than engage directly, despite numerous phone calls and emails.  This is a cause of genuine sadness and disappointment to us in conducting family business.”

Explaining his decision to release new information, John Langlois said: “For the past two months the Evangelical Alliance has been restrained from telling its constituency the truth by a secular legal device. I shall not be so constrained. For the past two months I have been an ‘insider’, knowing the truth, seemingly being an accomplice after the event to deception and obtaining money by false pretences but unable to tell those who have a right to know.”

He explained that the agreement setting up the inquiry with Avanti included an expectation that Avanti would make its findings known to their supporters. “We expected the Avanti board to comply with the terms of their Agreement with us. This has not happened.

“A day or so after the Report was delivered to Avanti they announced that Avanti was ceasing all operations. The office was closed and the telephone was cut off. We were informed that all communication had to be through Avanti’s solicitor, Mr Duncan Elson . . . at Charles Russell LLP.

“I was shocked that the directors of a charity registered with the Charity Commissioners – indeed any charity or any company, let alone a Christian ministry – would do this. I asked myself:

“‘How will the supporters of Avanti know what is going on?’

“‘How will financial supporters ever know how their money has been spent?’

“‘How will they ever get to know the truth?’

“After all, it was specifically to establish the truth that the directors of Avanti appointed us. We had embarked on this task, as required in the Agreement, namely ‘in a professional manner and in a spirit of Christian conciliation as set out in Scripture, [our] prime goal being the glory of God, the honour of His Name and the healing of any divisions in the Body of Christ’. The closing of Avanti meant that Christian conciliation as set out in Scripture and the healing of any divisions in the Body of Christ could not be achieved.

“I intend to fulfil my obligations to the body of Christ. That takes precedence over any gagging order.”

In his response he says that he will not release the full report of the inquiry “without undertaking in-depth discussions” with the inquiry panel members, but he says:

I can say that from the clear evidence of the Research Group and other third parties, including documentary evidence which corroborated it, and without reference to any information submitted to us by Avanti or Tony Anthony, I concluded that:

  1. Tony Anthony never went to China as a child as claimed,
  2. He was never involved in Kung Fu as claimed, and
  3. He was never involved in Close Protection as claimed.

I am of the opinion that Tony Anthony had a normal childhood in the London area, attending Holy Trinity Church of England Primary School, Eagans Close, Market Place, East Finchley, London N2 8GA as a child, which was followed by secondary education at Christ’s College, Finchley.
If anyone doubts this they can simply contact the school or have this confirmed by Tony Anthony’s mother.”

He also attacks the continued “deliberate deception” undertaken not only by Tony Anthony but also by the trustees and directors of Avanti Ministries Ltd since publication of the joint EA and Avanti statement.

He says: “On 14th July 2013 Avanti and the EA issued a Joint Statement according to which ‘large sections of the book [Taming the Tiger] …which claim to tell the true story of Tony Anthony’s life, do not do so.’ Two days later the Avanti board made a statement which said that ‘The panel produced its report on 26 June 2013 challenging the integrity of some of the facts of Taming the Tiger. Tony has since confirmed that he is considering a revision to the book.’ That was a deliberate deception. The Joint Statement stated that ‘large sections of the book‘ were untrue. [emphasis added]

“The separate Avanti statement merely repeated an earlier statement of 12 February 2013 which said ‘It is important to acknowledge that there are some relatively minor anomalies in relation to dates and certain narrative structure in the original manuscript. However, these will be corrected when a revised edition of the book is released later in the year’.

“Contrary to the impression given by Avanti, they appointed the Panel to investigate ‘all principal allegations’ against Tony Anthony, not to consider whether some facts in Taming the Tiger were true or not. One of the principal allegations presented to us by representors was that virtually the whole of his story was a pack of lies.”

About Tony Anthony himself, John Langlois says: “It appears that Tony Anthony is still undertaking speaking engagements claiming his life story is true. He appeared on Premier Christian Radio three days after the publication of the joint statement, stating that there were minor errors in his story which would be remedied.

“I am aware of a similar case some time ago where an evangelist was dismissed by his board after an internal inquiry. The directors in that case intended to write a letter to the supporters of the ministry explaining the truth of what had happened, but prior to the letter being mailed a letter was received from his lawyer threatening legal action if the details of the dismissal were disclosed to anyone.

“The Board issued a vague statement. Six months later the ministry was wound up. The end result has been that the evangelist justified himself, vilified his past board members, started up another ministry and is back ministering in churches who have no idea what he is really like. There have been no signs of genuine repentance. We have to ensure that this does not happen in the present case.

“As a Panel member to whom the directors of Avanti gave the responsibility to establish the truth, I am aware that should I fail to fulfil my obligations the same thing may happen again and there will be more hurt churches and people will wonder why this has been allowed to happen. This is the very opposite of achieving Christian conciliation as set out in Scripture and healing divisions in the Body of Christ, as required in the Agreement that Avanti signed.

“I shall do all I can to ensure that supporters of Tony Anthony and past supporters of Avanti are made aware of the truth in accordance with the Panel’s mandate. There are other more serious things in the Report than those I have stated above.”

You can read John Langlois’ full response to the open letter here.