Gospel for Asia, a Christian church planting and missionary organization, has responded to accusations that one of its sister churches and its leader have been "siphoning out" illegal tax-exempt dollars for fraudulent expenses. The accusations about the organization’s sister church, Believers Eastern Church, and its leader, Bishop K.P. Yohannan, were made by the Indian government and spread on social media.
According to The Christian Post, the Indian government released a statement on Friday noting that the country’s Income Tax Department conducted a search and seizure of the church based on “credible information” claiming “that the group has received donations from foreign countries ostensibly for helping the poor and the destitute and for evangelical purposes, but was actually siphoning out such tax-exempted funds in cash to engage in unaccounted cash transactions for personal and other illegal expenses in real estate transactions.”
The statement continues noting that “The search has led to unearthing of a number of real estate transactions involving unaccounted cash payments. Related documents such as sale agreements, etc. have been seized. The group has also inflated the price in real estate transactions to show as if the money received in donations is being spent on the activities of the trusts. The evidence found so far indicate that the siphoning of funds in cash may be running into hundreds of crores of rupees."
Prior to the release of the government’s official statement, local media outlets reportedly claimed that the location was raided by Indian police. GFA says these claims are “based on exaggerated rumors.”
In a statement given to The Christian Post, GFA says that despite what was reported on social media and asserted in the Indian government’s statement, the church is completely complying with India's tax department.
The ministry, also claimed that media reports of the allegations against BEC were “thinly sourced and unsubstantiated.”
GFA, which is a separate legal entity from BEC, argued that the allegations are part of an “ongoing smear campaign targeting the ministry by those who are opposed to BEC’s mission in Asia.”
BEC spokesperson Fr. Sijo Pandapallil said in a statement to The Christian Post that "Believers Eastern Church, and its over 50 dioceses in India, are cooperating with the Indian government as they conduct a review of the ministry’s activities throughout the nation. The inquiry, conducted by the income tax department, began last week during an unannounced visit; unfortunately, the visit was wildly mischaracterized on social media.”
An investigation into the church and ministry is ongoing.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Kathy Kafka
John Paluska has been a contributor for Christian Headlines since 2016 and is the founder of The Daily Fodder, a news outlet he relaunched in 2019 as a response to the constant distribution of fake news.