Land deal: Court orders probe, Kerala Cardinal denies charges

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Kochi: The Kerala High Court on March 6 ordered a police probe against Cardinal George Alencherry and three others in connection with the sale of Church land that allegedly caused millions of rupees of loss to the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly.

However on the same day, the cardinal’s office in a circular denied any violation of civil or canonical law in the land deal. The circular stated the cardinal has authority and rights to sell the land on behalf of the archdiocese as a juridic person.

The court ordered the police to file a case against Cardinal Alencherry, Fathers Joshy Puthuva, the archdiocese’s procurator, Sebastian Vadakumpadan, in-charge of the archdiocese’s estates, and Saju Varghese, the realtor for the land sale.

The order came on a petition filed by Shine Varghese alleging that the deals were conducted without transparency that led to the loss of millions of rupees for the Church and evasion of taxes.

In 2016, the archdiocese had sold a three-acre plot in Kochi to repay 600 million rupees it had loaned from a bank to construct a medical college. The agent appointed by the archdiocese to facilitate the deal had estimated the land value at 273 million rupees, but the petitioner claimed that the real value was at least 800 million rupees.

The High Court observed that the documents submitted by the petitioner indicate conspiracy, betrayal and financial manipulations in the land deal. The court also stated that the archdiocese’s assets belong to its people and that the cardinal is only their representative.

The court while directing a police investigation, commented that the cardinal is not “a king” and that he is subject to the law of the country.

The police is expected to soon file a First Information Report.

The cardinal’s office clarified that the land sale was intended to clear the archdiocese’s debts and that it was done through the procurator after deliberations within the canonical committees. Allegation to the contrary are baseless, adds the press release issued by the Public Relations Office of the archdiocese.

While accepting that the lack of due care and judgment in the financial dealings has led to the current problems, the press release states that measures are being taken to rectify the deficits. It also says the cardinal is now studying the report of a commission he had appointed to investigate the land deal.

The circular asserts that court directions do not confirm the petitioner’s allegations, but only give direction to the police to probe any irregularities. The cardinal will decide further actions in consultation with others, after he receives the court order.

(source: Matters India)

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