Indian bishop ordered to appear before court to answer fraud allegations

 

Indian bishop ordered to appear before court to answer fraud allegations

Author: 

George Conger

Police in the city of Tiruppur in Southern India’s Tamil Nadu state have registered a fraud case against the Bishop in Coimbatore. Last week investigators from the state’s Central Criminal Branch lodged a case with the court against the Rt. Rev. Timothy Ravinder and eleven confederates for allegedly stealing 150 million rupees ($2.25 million) from St Paul’s CSI Church in Tiruppur and other churches in the region. Local press reports state a member of the congregation, Mr. A. Dilipkumar, brought a complaint of misappropriation of funds to the police in 2016 against the bishop and the financial officers of the diocese. After the police declined to act, Mr. Dilipkumar presented his case to local magistrates, who directed the police to investigate. Last week’s announcement means police found a prima facie case existed against the bishop, and will launch a formal criminal investigation. The accused have been ordered to appear before the court to answer the charges. In 2015 police launched a criminal investigation against BIshop Ravinder and 19 others for graft. That complaint alleged the diocese defrauded congregations by selling land at below market prices to speculators and then accepting kickbacks from the buyers. One complaint alleged that land valued at $900,000 was sold for $200,000 to speculators by diocesan officials, in return for a kickback from the buyer. Police are continuing to investigate that case. Consecrated in 2013, Bishop Ravinder replaced the Rt. Rev. Manickam Dorai who was deposed by the CSI’s synod for theft and fraud. Last year the Madras High Court blocked the Diocese of Coimbatore from holding elections to its diocesan council at the 14-16 Nov 2016 meeting of synod. Justice N. Kirubakaran held the diocese was currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office for the malfeasance of its officers.  A petition filed by lay members of the diocese claimed that while their former bishop had been removed by the church for corruption, his cronies, including his successor, still exercised power in the diocese. Without a thorough housecleaning, they charged, the corruption would not end in the diocese.

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