First Black Money Case Against Catholic Church In India: Kerala Cardinal Allegedly Siphoned About Rs 13 Cr
A church panel which probed land transactions in Ernakulam archdiocese recommended action against Cardinal George Alencherry, head of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Kochi. It was alleged that the land owned by the Church had been sold below the market price. A Church Panel was constituted to probe the allegations involved in the land deal. According to a report by The Indian Express, it also involves the first black money case against the Catholic Church.
The alleged deal involved the sale of three acres in Kochi owned by Ernakulam Archdiocese in 2016. The sale was made to repay the bank loan which had been taken to build a medical college. The Church assigned a private land dealer, and the estimated land value was Rs 27.30 crore. But the Church had only received an amount of Rs 9.13 crore, as reported by Scroll. Several priests and laymen alleged that the plot worth at least Rs 80 crores.
“The dealings were not transparent, and the diocese incurred a heavy loss. We (priests) cannot keep quiet after detecting such a grave issue. If we don’t react, how can we face the faithful?,” said Augustine Vattoli, a priest, to The Indian Express.
The panel report
The Archdiocese appointed a six-member panel consisting priests and laymen to investigate the loss in the land deal. “There is a grave violation of the Church laws, which amounted to a naked act of breach of trust and criminal misappropriation of properties”, the report by the panel stated.
According to the recommendations of the report, accessed by The Indian Express, there was a lack of transparency and collegiality in the land deal. It accused Cardinal Alencherry of not taking care in the land deal.
“Total amount receivable according to 36 deeds is Rs 13.52 crore. But, there is a difference of Rs 13.62 crore between the documented amount and the amount in the curia (a diocese body) resolution. Receiving unaccounted money is a serious offence as per the Income Tax Act,’’ the report added. The report has been submitted to officials in Rome.
A police complaint was filed by Adv Polachan Puthuppara, claiming a tax evasion of Rs 2 crore in the land deal. He said that the land was divided into 36 plots to evade tax and the government had a loss of 2 crores. “I have received a petition against the cardinal. It was forwarded to Kochi city police commissioner for further action,” said P Vijayan, Inspector General of Police (Kochi).
Cardinal George Alencherry
Cardinal Mar George Alencherry is the head of Kochi based Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. He is one among the Indian cardinals eligible to elect the Pope. He was elected as the cardinal of the Archdiocese on February 18, 2012.