Kerala’s catholic church and its cardinal under scanner for shady land deals

Action has been recommended against Cardinal George Alencherry, the head of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church for causing loss to the diocese. It has been recommended by a church panel probing land deals in the archdiocese of Ernakulam, a case which also involves black money.

Alencherry one of the most important Christian clerics in India, is one of the Indian cardinals who are eligible to elect the pope. Found violating the Church and Civil law, the report against him by the church panel has been sent to the pope.

Apart from Alencherry, two others namely priest Sebastian Vadakumpadan and the finance officer Joshy Puthuva, have been blamed in this case and as admitted by the spokesman of the Ernakulam archdiocese, the charges levelled are grave.

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As alleged, the archdiocese had suffered losses since 2015 due to dubious land deals, which involved selling five plots owned by the diocese in the Ernakulam district. Turns out that the sale of these plots broken into 36 parts should have yielded roughly Rs 27 crores but only about Rs 9.13 crores were allegedly received. It has been alleged that the price fixed for these plots was Rs 9.5 lakh per 435.5 square feet, which was far lower than the then prevailing market rate of Rs 15 lakh per 435.5 square feet.

As per the report, this act was dubbed as a “naked act of breach of trust and criminal misappropriation of properties”.

Besides this, unaccounted money was also found during the investigations. Allegedly the receivable value for the land deals was set at Rs 27.15 crores but the value as per the registered deeds as only about Rs 13.51 crores. Such an act of receiving unaccounted money is serious offence in the Income Tax act.

It has also been claimed that the registration of land deeds violated all norms. The Church panel’s report estimates the loss to the diocese to be Rs 46 crores for various land and sale purchases since April, 2015.

The investigation regarding this matter isn’t only restricted to the church’s internal inquiries.

At the start of Jaunary, it was reported that a lawyer had petitioned the police to file a case against the three accused in this matter. This was then forwarded by the IGP (Kochi) P Vijayan to the Kochi city police commissioner for further action.

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