‘Projects of Church being audited, mistakes pointed out by I-T dept. will be rectified’
The Believers Eastern Church on Monday dismissed reports on the Income Tax authorities unearthing massive irregularities, including real estate transactions involving unaccounted cash, and requested the media to desist from ‘fabricating reports that are either half-true or totally fake.’
In a video message, Church spokesperson Sijo Panthappallil said the raids would continue for at least a couple of months and all projects of the Church, including its charity initiatives, were being subjected to audit. “If the I-T authorities point out mistakes, they will rectified through discussions within the Church Episcopal Council,” he said.
The IT officials reportedly seized unexplained cash worth several crores of rupees from the institutions under the Church. The action, which began on November 5, covered 66 locations across Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Karnataka, Chandigarh, Punjab, and Telangana.
An official statement said the searches followed credible information that the group had received donations from abroad ostensibly for helping the poor and for evangelical purposes. It, however, was siphoning off such tax-exempted funds to unaccounted cash transactions in, among others, real estate deals.
Headed by Metropolitan Archbishop Athanasius Yohan 1 (K.P. Yohannan), the Church has been on the radar of the government for allegedly receiving several crores of rupees in foreign funding through the NGOs run by it. In 2017, the Ministry of Home Affairs had barred the church and three NGOs associated with it from receiving foreign funds.