Church sees plot in investigation against Indian cardinal

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A federal agency has opened an investigation against Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church of India, on money laundering charges which a church official said was part of a conspiracy aimed at tarnishing the church and its leader.

The Execution Directorate (ED) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which is investigating financial crimes, has started investigating Cardinal Alencherry’s actions in connection with the sale of church land that allegedly resulted in a financial loss for the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly.

“The decision of the ED to investigate the cardinal is undoubtedly an attempt to target him and tarnish the image of the church,” said Father Abraham Kavilpurayidam, spokesman for the Syrian church. malabar.

The cardinal is the main archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church based in the state of Kerala which has some five million members in India and abroad.

On October 25, Father Kavilpurayidam told UCA News that the latest decision against the cardinal comes after a local court exonerated him and a task force of Kerala police found no basis for the allegations. .

“A special team from the Kerala Police Criminal Division investigated all the allegations thoroughly and gave him a good word” in October last year, the priest said.

The priest recalled that several bogus cases had accused Cardinal Alencherry of causing huge losses due to the land sales he executed as head of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamali.

The police team investigated allegations of embezzlement but submitted their report to the court to dismiss the case as it is based on “an error of fact”.

The Ernakulam District Court also dismissed the charges against the cardinal last month, saying “there is no prima facie case for continuing the case.”

The new investigation “is part of a plot to tarnish the image of the cardinal and the church he heads,” Father Kavilpurayidam said. “Cardinal Alencherry is being persecuted through no fault of his own. The cardinal will surely come out clean.

The priest recalled that several bogus cases had accused Cardinal Alencherry of causing huge losses due to the land sales he executed as head of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamali.

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The ED investigation, like the other complaints, is based on an allegation that the Cardinal received unrecorded money.

The Income Tax Department had previously fined the Archdiocese 60 million rupees (US $ 799,000) for alleged financial discrepancies.

The police team’s report shows that the investigation examined 83 people, including Cardinal Alencherry and scanned documents, including the Archdiocese’s land register, financial transactions and other related documents, but did not could not find any basis in the accusations against the cardinal and 23 others, including some priests.

The allegations against the cardinal fell into the public domain in November 2017 after a group of priests in the archdiocese publicly accused him of selling several plots of land over a two-year period, resulting in a loss of some $ 10 million for the archdiocese.

All of these cases are recorded to discredit the cardinal in front of the public and also the vibrant church he leads.

Although the district court dismissed one case, the cardinal is set to stand trial in seven other similar cases that accuse him of conspiracy, breach of trust, cheating and related charges in land deals.

The cardinal had appealed to the Kerala High Court to discharge him of the allegations, but the court, in its August 12 order, dismissed the appeal and asked him to appear in court.

Father Kavilpurayidam and other Catholic officials say a group of people are working against the cardinal. “All of these cases are recorded to discredit the cardinal in front of the public and also the vibrant church he heads.”

“The truth will surely triumph, even if it takes time,” said one priest who did not want to be named.

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