A SOUTHEND evangelist whose “extraordinary true story” has been dismissed as largely made-up hoped to pull in £20million from investors to turn it into a blockbuster movie.
Tony Anthony, 43, from Briarwood Drive, Leigh, used charity money to distribute thousands of copies of the autobiography Taming the Tiger, which in turn promoted the planned film.
This week, the Echo revealed he stepped down from the Avanti Ministries charity he founded, after an evangelist panel investigated the book and concluded large parts were not true.
The charity, based in Clarence Road, folded last week.
The book described howMr Anthony was raised by a Chinese grandfather from the age of four to become a threetime world kung fu champion and elite bodyguard, before becoming a dangerous gangster and jailed in Cyprus where he found God.
It was taken off sale by publisher Authentic Media last week.
Mr Anthony purchased 100,000 copies of his own book through Avanti Ministries, on a royalty-free basis, before distributing it free to people and promoting it through the charity.
It has sold about 1.5 million copies worldwide and been translated into 30 languages.
The book has also been available to buy for £5 on his website. Avanti recorded income from sales of books in its accounts, including £26,000 in 2007.
Malcolm Down, Authentic Media publishing manager, said: “We sold 200,000 copies in the UK. About 100,000 were sold by us with royalties paid.
The other 100,000 were bought by Avanti on a royalty- free basis.”
He could not confirm international sales “handled by 25 publishers”.
Mr Anthony said on the website: “The depth is in the truth of the story.
“We will require an investment budget of £20million, including a first phase development budget of £500,000.”
Mr Anthony maintains the substance of the book is true and is working on a revised issue with a disclaimer for names and dates that were changed to protect people’s identities. He added the film project would continue.
More than £60,000 of charity money was also paid to Mr Anthony and wife Sara Anthony to allow them to travel the globe promoting the book.
Accounts for Avanti Ministries show more than £62,000 was paid to the married couple between 2004 and 2011.
Avanti funded evangelists' trips to countries including New Zealand, Canada, the far east, South Africa and Europe.
In 2010 the charity raised £214,000 with Mr Anthony paid around £10,000 for travelling.
Mr Anthony said: "Despite a global reach, the organisation lived hand-to-mouth under immense financial pressure and each ministry trip had to be carefully and prayerfully considered.
On his website he said it was ridiculous he used his story to make money.