Two days after police claimed to have recovered Rs 9.66 crore in ‘hawala’ money from six men including Father Anthony Madassery of Jalandhar, the latter on Sunday accused the Khanna police of misappropriation of Rs 6.65 crore.
The police however, called his allegations “concocted”.
Addressing a press conference, the priest also demanded that an FIR be lodged against the “erring officers” and the case be handed over to the CBI. Khanna police in response said there was no question of misappropriation as the recovered amount had been countered by the income tax department.
Father Anthony allegedly that when the police raided his residence on Friday, Rs 16.65 crore was recovered and South Indian Bank Officials, who were present there, had counted the money using a counting machine as it was to be deposited in the bank.
“But police disclosed to the media that Rs 9.66 crore has been found in my possession, thereby misappropriating an amount of over Rs 6.65 crore,” he claimed.
Asked that why was he raising the allegations two days after the incident, Father Anthony claimed he was being questioned by police and IT officials and had at first thought that the difference might have been deposited in the bank. However, when he got released, he got to know that the remaining balance of Rs 6.65 crore was not deposited and bank officials told him that police took the entire amount with them, he further claimed.
His statement in the press release said, “If an FIR is not registered against Khanna SSP and Manjit Singh, SP…I would be left with no option than to approach Chief Justice, Punjab and Haryana High Court, to refer the matter to CBI for investigation against senior police officials involved in misappropriation.”
The press release also stated, ‘Complaint has been given to Commissioner of Police, Ludhiana against SSP, Khanna and other officials who took money at gunpoint without proper accounting inventory. Copies of the complaints have been forwarded by email to Chief Justice Punjab and Haryana High Court, Chief Minister, Punjab DGP, DIG, Ludhiana.”
Asked about the cash, Father Anthony claimed he has a partnership firm, Sahodaya, which deals in providing books, stationery items, uniforms and security to several schools in Punjab. “Nowadays, admission season is on. Every year, we provide books and other items worth around Rs 40 crore to about 45 schools. The money recovered from my residence was the money collected from selling books. A day before the raid, officials of the South Indian Bank had come to my residence along with a cash counting machine, and deposited Rs 10 crore into bank account. The bank officials came on the day of the raid with the machine as well, and counted the remaining amount of Rs 16.65 crore and placed the same in different bags as it was to be deposited in the same bank. I have proof of the entire amount with me,” he said.
The priest also alleged that 40-50 people armed with pistols and AK-47s but no search warrant trespassed on his residence and “forcibly” took away Rs 16.65 crore, mobile phones and “abducted” him and others at gunpoint. None of the local police officials were informed about this raid, added he. He also said that he was picked up from his house in Pratapura by Khanna police, not from Doraha in Ludhiana, which he claimed could be confirmed from his phone location.
He also alleged that his signatures were forcibly taken on some papers on which something was written in Punjabi, a language he cannot read, and when he refused, he was told that he will be “framed in some hawala case”.
“When I am doing everything as per law, then there is no problem. Moreover, I don’t draw any salary from the Jalandhar Diocese…I was given a notice by the Income Tax Department, Ludhiana to which I shall reply on April 3,” he said.
When contacted Khanna SSP Dhruv Dahiya he told The Indian Express that all of the recovered money from Doraha was counted by the I-T department, which also gave certificates to the accused. He added that the I-T department had recorded their statements and called the priest’s version a “concocted story”.
“How did he remain silent on an alleged theft of such a huge amount for two days?” asked the SSP, adding that the ED was also probing the matter.
The manager of the concerned bank refused to comment on the matter.
Father Anthony is a close aide of Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who is facing allegations of raping a nun.