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Kerala: I-T department attaches Cheruvally estate owned by Believers Church accused of foreign currency norms violation

The Income Tax Department took over the church's property as a precautionary measure after it found that foreign currency transactions worth Rs 500 crore done by the church was illegal.

The Income-Tax department has reportedly attached the Cheruvally estate located near Erumeli in Kottayam district, Kerala, which is owned by the Believers Church. The I-T department seized the land in a case of violation of foreign currency norms by the church. The Income Tax Department took over the church’s property as a precautionary measure after it found that foreign currency transactions worth Rs 500 crore done by the church was illegal.

The Believers Church, also known as the Believers Eastern Church, has reportedly been at loggerheads with the Kerala government since June last year when the state government tried to take over the Cheruvally Rubber estate for the construction of an airport near the Sabarimala temple. it is alleged that the church had taken over the 2000 acres of land using forged documents.

With the I-T department taking over the land, the state government’s plan to build an airport on the land could be in jeoparady.

The Believers Church has ownership dispute with Kerala government regarding the estate land

There is an ownership dispute over the estate land that the Believers Church reportedly bought in 2005. Successive governments in Kerala have claimed the ownership of the estate land. The suit for the ownership of the disputed land is going in a local Kerala court. The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala had offered to deposit the money due for the estate in the local court. The Believers Church, however, refused to give the land.

Yohannan was reportedly served a summon by the I-T department to appear before it. However, he sent a reply to the I-T department expressing inability to travel and said that he would be available for questioning in the first week of December.

Crores was seized during raids at church officers last year

Last year in November, the I-T department had raided 66 premises of the Believers Church located in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Chandigarh, Punjab and Telangana. The department had reportedly seized at least Rs 15 crore from various offices of the Church out of which Rs 3.45 crore were confiscated from Delhi. Evangelist KP Yohannan, the founder and self-proclaimed Bishop of the Believers Church, has been managing the Gospel for Asia through which the church was launched. Yohannan, who is currently residing at Gospel for Asia Headquarters in Texas, USA, is said to have evaded detention under the US Racketeers, Influenced and Corrupt Organisation Act (RICO), 1970. The church, that was started by Yohannan in 1978, claims to have 2.4 million followers across 14 countries. It has branches in countries like the US, South Korea, Australia, Canada, Finland and so on.

Rs 6,000 crore received by the church under FCRA used for buying properties

According to reports, Yohannan Kadippiaril Punnose ( KP Yohannan) and the church had received a whopping Rs 6,000 crore foreign money for charity under the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act (FCRA). However, the donation money has been used by the church to buy properties including real estates. This points at huge scam along with FCRA violations. KP Yohannan is accused of committing irregularities in the name of Christianity particularly in Canada and the USA.

Yohannan has been facing accusations of embezzlement in Canada and the USA. He is accused of misusing of millions of dollars received in charitable donations. A lawsuit was reportedly filed against Yohannan last year in a US court following the similar accusations against him.

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OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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