I-T raids at Kerala church, foreign funding rules violation suspected
The Income Tax (IT) sleuths raided offices and institutions associated with evangelist K P Yohanan’s Believers’ Church in central Kerala and other places and seized Rs five crore currency and other valuables, a senior official who is part of the investigation said.
The officer said the raid which started on Thursday was continuing at many places and serious violations of Foreign Contributions Regulation Act and (FCRA) Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) were detected. The Believers’ Church runs a medical college and many other educational institutions in Kerala and other states. It also owns Cheruvally estate in Pathanamthitta district which has been identified as the location for the proposed Sabarimala airport.
In 2017, the Union home ministry had barred three NGOs associated with the church from accepting funds but the latest raids show fund flow continued from foreign countries in other names. It is alleged that more than Rs 100 crore came in the last three years. A senior I-T official said the department will release details once raids are over. He said raids were based on specific information on tax evasion and misuse of foreign funds. The church said it will give a statement after the conclusion of raids.
An independent denomination, the indigenous church has witnessed massive growth in the last one and a half decade and its head KP Yohanan is known for his religious discourses. The 70-year-old priest is the founder and president of Gospel of Asia, a large non-profit evangelist organisation with main focus on India and Asia. He has also authored more than 100 books on Christian living and mission.
A controversial religious head, he was in news when the church brought Chreuvally Estate, a rubber and tea plantation spread over 10 kms radius, from plantation group Harisons Malayalam Limited. In July, the Kerala High Court had directed the state government not to acquire the land for the airport by force after KP Yohanan moved the court.
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