A recording spread around the world at the end of March, purportedly featuring a former Vodafone executive claiming to let the public in on a secret that the coronavirus pandemic is cover for a global plot to install 5G mobile phone masts, track the world’s population through vaccines, and then destroy human society as we know it, Guardian discovered.
In reality, the Guardian can reveal, the voice on the tape making the baseless claims is an evangelical pastor from Luton who recently tried to convince Zimbabweans to use cryptocurrency in their economy.
Jonathon James, who regularly preached at churches in Bedfordshire, is the previously unidentified individual who reached millions of people with his detailed but nonsense claims that Covid-19 is a fake disease covering for the impact of 5G.
Although James was not the first individual to attempt to connect the pandemic and 5G, the popularity of his recording grew at the end of last month, just as people believing the conspiracy theory began to burn down phone equipment and harass telecoms engineers.
In the recording he suggests that Bill Gates is involved in a plot to produce coronavirus vaccinations that will contain computer chips to track individuals, a move he claims will ultimately herald the destruction of society.
“The coronavirus is not what’s killing people, it is clearly, categorically, unequivocally proven that the radio frequencies we are being exposed to are killing the people,” he told his audience without any evidence. “God has blessed me with the ability to bring disparate pieces of information together that puts the puzzle together and makes sense of it.”
Much of the audio clip’s claims to credibility rely on James’s assertion that he is the former head of the largest business unit at Vodafone, supposedly giving him the inside track on new technologies at one of the world’s biggest telecoms companies.
Vodafone insiders told the Guardian that while James had worked for the company, he was hired for a sales position in 2014 at a time when 5G was not a priority for the company and was unlikely to be in his remit. They said he ultimately left Vodafone after less than a year.
Despite this, many of the leading online anti-5G groups repeatedly refer to the supposed censoring of a “former Vodafone boss” as a key source backing up their beliefs, with the recording spreading out of the UK and reaching large audiences in the US and Nigeria.
International radiation watchdogs have cleared 5G as safe, while NHS bosses have called on people to stop spreading rumours linking the pandemic to 5G and threatening vital infrastructure.
James’s identity was ultimately pieced together by researchers at the fact-checking startup Logically, working in conjunction with the Guardian. When the preacher was contacted he said he “was absolutely shocked that [a] somewhat ‘private message’ to a dedicated small community went viral and [was] ubiquitously covered [on] various social media platforms”.
The preacher, whose WhatsApp profile picture shows him relaxing on a private jet wearing a monogrammed shirt, said: “For the record, I certainly wasn’t trying to vilify, incriminate or implicate any mobile network operator for their commercial endeavours to roll out their unified telecoms and next generation of mobile topologies in this regard.
“Had I known my voice note would have gone to a wider audience I certainly would have contextualised my thoughts, been more specific on what I was sharing citing references, and far less explicit. I was simply trying to summarise what the ‘perceived truth’ was behind this bizarre pandemic in the interest of serving my community.”
James, who regularly preaches at the Light City Christian Ministries in Luton, has apparently had a varied career since his time at Vodafone. He claims to have at one point advised central bankers in “the Congo” and Bangladesh on cryptocurrencies and he has posed with the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa. In 2018 he was working as an economic adviser for a Zimbabwean opposition party, urging it to save the economy using Bitcoin-type products pegged to diamond deposits through blockchain technology.
Asked if he had any final comment, James said he was unable to reply as he “had some rather pressing head of state engagement necessitating my full attention and time [for the] last 48 hours”.