Indian bishop arrested on fraud charges

The former Bishop in Madras of the Church of South India, the Rt. Rev. Vedanayagam Devasahayam has been arrested by police in Madras and charged with stealing funds donated to his diocese by the Episcopal Church of the USA to aid victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

 

According to the indictment, Bishop Davasahayam told the residents of a coastal village that had been destroyed by a tidal wave following the 26 December 2004 earthquake located off the west coast of Sumatara the CSI had “adopted” the village and would rebuild their homes. A ceremony attended by local government officials was held on 5 Aug. 2005 and a foundation stone laid to mark the start of the project, but no work was ever undertaken. When villagers inquired as to the status of the project they were told the funds from America had never been received. A subsequent investigation by police found the money had been received and had allegedly been stolen by the bishop.

In 2010 Indian Customs and Excise fined the bishop in Madras $12,000 for his part in a scheme to defraud the government of import duties. After receiving a tip that medical equipment donated to the CSI Hospital in Nagari in Andhra Pradesh had been imported on a false manifest that undervalued the equipment, the Department of Revenue conducted an audit. It ordered the diocese to pay a fine and back duty of over $750,000 while order the bishop to pay a personal fine. ordered to pay a personal fine of £7000 for his role in the affair. Supporters of the bishop report the fines have been paid, and have accused the bishop’s critics of racism, saying their attacks are motivated by the bishop’s status as a Dalit, or untouchable.

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