AN ADVOCATE and a follower of catholic church has filed a petition to the police, demanding that a criminal case be registered against Cardinal George Alancherry, the archbishop of the Catholic diocese of Ernakulam, and two other priests in a controversial sale of land by the diocese.
In his petition filed on Wednesday, advocate Polachan Puthuppara, president of Kerala Catholic Association for Justice, said that a case should be registered against the trio for alleged misappropriation of property, cheating and criminal breach of trust.
IGP (Kochi) P Vijayan said, “I have received a petition against the cardinal. It was forwarded to Kochi city police commissioner for further action.”
One of the five cardinals in India, Alancherry is also the head of Kochi-based Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.
The diocese had incurred huge losses in sale of land in Kochi in 2015. The issue has triggered an unprecedented revolt, with several priests speaking openly against the land deal over the last one week.
While Alancherry has not responded so far, diocese spokesman Fr Paul Karedan said there was breach of trust on part of the dealer, who did not pay the entire amount that was agreed upon. “The cardinal is still hopeful of getting the outstanding amount. Cardinal says the remaining amount would reach the diocese in a week,” he said.
In 2015, the diocese sold 3 acres of land, spread over five plots in various parts of Kochi and suburbs, to repay part of a Rs 58-crore bank loan to buy a piece of land to build a medical college for the diocese. The project was later abandoned.
The diocese’s finance committee had ratified the price and a private land dealer, Saju Varghese, was assigned to sell it. In the sale deal that was executed, the diocese was to get Rs 28.5 crore. But so far it has received only Rs 9.5 crore, even after the entire land was sold. Varghese, it appears, got the sale deal executed even before the diocese got the remaining Rs 19 crore credited to its account.
Augustine Vattoli, a priest, said, “The dealings were not transparent and the diocese incurred heavy loss. We (priests) cannot keep quiet after detecting such a grave issue. If we don’t react, how can we face the faithful?”
Puthuppara, who petitioned the police, claimed there was tax evasion of Rs 2 crore in the deal. “The land was resold into 36 plots to evade tax, so the government should probe it,” he said.