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Fleecing the Faithful—Again: Former YWAM Leader Defrauds Many

A Swedish Christian businessman swindled friends, family, and missionaries of millions of dollars.
Fleecing the Faithful—Again: Former YWAM Leader Defrauds Many
Image: Pauws / Eljee Bergwerff / Genesis Photos

(UPDATE) Erik Spruyt, who at the time the article was written was under suspicion of fraud, has subsequently been acquitted. In 2013 Mr. & Mrs. O’Donnell and others filed a civil suit against Mr. Spruyt and Mercy Ministries in France. The French court ruled on January 16, 2017 as follows: "The court ... dismisses all claims against Mercy Ministries and Mr. Spruyt brought by Mr. and Mrs. O'Donnell" and others. Financial judgements were rendered against the plaintiffs in the French court proceedings. --The Editors

When Jan and Henny Pauw visited Le Rucher on a summer missions trip, they never dreamed it would wind up costing them their retirement nest egg. The Dutch couple became ensnared in a faith-based Ponzi scheme that operated for a dozen years before it unraveled.

Nestled on two acres at the base of France's Jura Mountains and the nearby Swiss Alps, the Le Rucher retreat center opened in 1994 to help stressed-out missionaries recuperate. But Le Rucher became the setting for the promotion of the fraudulent Nordic Capital Investments (NCI), which has created resentment toward Le Rucher co-founder Erik Spruyt. Last October, Swedish businessman Kristian Westergard, the founder of NCI and a close associate of Spruyt's, was convicted of gross fraud in Sweden and sentenced to prison.

In 1998, the Pauws went to Le Rucher—then associated with Youth With a Mission (YWAM)—with their evangelical church in Ermelo, the Netherlands. An industrial chemist by trade, Jan had never been on a Christian mission. On the couple's first trip, Spruyt suggested they consider becoming long-term volunteers. Jan replied that they couldn't afford it.

When the Pauws returned the following summer, Spruyt ...

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