In a major crackdown, the Income Tax Department had raided the premises of Believers Eastern Church in Thiruvalla in central Kerala. The Church is led by evangelist KP Yohannan and is accused of diverting funds collected for charity for religious proselytisation.
As per reports, the I-T Department had unearthed a major financial scam and recovered a whopping ₹8 crores in cash. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs had earlier cancelled the FCRA licence of Believers Eastern Church for carrying out evangelic activities using charity funds. This was despite the fact that the Church had received the donations through proper channels.
According to Times Now, Believers Eastern Church received over ₹7,000 crores in the past 7 years, according to TimesNow, through other trusts. The Church had also used their funds in real estate dealings and construction of institutions. In fact, the Believers Church reportedly continued to get funds from various trusts even after their license was cancelled.
According to Times Now, the Believers Eastern Church also funds several political parties. According to Indian Express, the IT department is looking into the transactions of over 10 years.
“The Church had got the foreign contributions through the proper channels. But they had diverted the charity funds for religious purposes. Even after the cancellation of the FCRA account, the Church tried to get funds through other trusts”, said an official according to Indian Express.
While speaking on the development, an IT official informed, “The raid began Thursday and is still on in Kerala and elsewhere in the country. So far, we have recovered Rs 8 crore in cash from various premises. Our action is still going on… We, prima facie, assume that the Church had invested around Rs 1,000 crore in real estate development. The funds for charity have been used for running churches, which is a religious purpose. As the raids are still on, we cannot come to any conclusion about the magnitude of the violations.’’
Government crackdown on evangelical organisations
Earlier, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had suspended the Foreign Contribution Regulations Act (FCRA) licences of 13 NGOs after allegations were raised against them for indulging in forced religious conversions of tribals to Christianity in tribal-dominated areas. The MHA has also frozen the bank accounts of these NGOs after intelligence inputs pointed out their conversion-related activities targeting the tribal areas of several states, including Jharkhand.
Ministry of Home Affairs had given the 13 NGOs six months to respond to suspension notice. The centre has recently suspended the FCRA licence of four Christian evangelical organizations, namely the Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church, Ecreosoculis North Western Gossner Evangelical, New Life Fellowship Association, and Evangelical Churches Association.