FIR against Cardinal Alencherry in land deal case

Cardinal George Alencherry, Archbishop of Ernakulam   | Photo Credit: M. Vedhan

The City police have registered a case against Cardinal George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church and head of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, and three others in connection with a series of land deals that reportedly resulted in financial loss for the archdiocese.

The case has been registered under IPC Sections 120B, 405, and 415 police sources said.

The case was registered following an order of the Kerala High Court on a writ filed by a Catholic layperson. The court had observed that there was prima facie evidence to indicate criminal conspiracy, breach of trust, and misappropriation of money in the land deals.

The court issued the orders last Tuesday and the police had waited to get details of the court order before proceeding.

The police would probe the role of archdiocesan functionaries Fr Joshy Puthuva and Fr Sebastian Vadakkumpadan and a lay person Saju Varghese, who reportedly acted as the middleman in the land deals.

The registration of the police case adds a twist to the land deal scandal that has divided the members of the archdiocese into camps opposing and supporting the Major Archbishop and the senior church functionaries named in the police FIR.

A senior priest and member of the Presbyteral Council, a canonical body, told The Hindu that the archdiocese was now straddled with a loan of around ₹90 crore in place of the ₹60-crore loan it had set out to settle when the land sales were initially planned. The Major Archbishop owed an explanation on this.

In a more strident voice, the Archdiocesan Movement for Transparency, comprising lay persons, has said it will prevent the Major Archbishop from taking part in public functions organised under the archdiocese.

The Presbyteral Council, reflecting the sentiments of the vast majority of priests in the archdiocese, wants the Major Archbishop to step down until his name was cleared. But a forum calling itself the faithful of the archdiocese (Syro Malabar Vishwasa Sangamam) has alleged a conspiracy to unseat the Major Archbishop, blaming the auxiliary bishops for the mistakes now being heaped at the doors of the Major Archbishop.

The land deal scandal relates to efforts by the archdiocese to settle a loan of around ₹60 crore by selling three acres under its possession in Kochi.

The archdiocese did not receive the entire money it was to have received as proceeds from the sale even an year-and-a-half after the transactions. Out of a total of ₹27 crore it was to receive, the archdiocese had got only ₹9 crore so far.

The police action follows legal opinion they received from Advocate General C.P. Sudhakaraprasad on Monday morning. Ernakulam Central CI Ananthalal is heading the investigation.

While maintaining that all the accused will be interrogated, officials said the Cardinal would not be summoned for questioning. “If the charges are found during the initial round of interrogation, further course of action will be initiated. Otherwise, the investigators may file a report of the inquiry before the court,” they said.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 7:55:48 PM |

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