After conducting thorough search operations on the premises of self-styled evangelist and Believers Eastern Church founder KP Yohannan at different locations in the country, the Income Tax (I-T) sleuths have found that the group belonging to the evangelist routed unaccounted money through organisations which remained only on paper.
“The group runs about 30 trusts, registered across the country, and most of them exist only on paper and have been found to be used for routing the unaccounted funds and for accommodation transactions. It has been found that the modus operandi of the group is to systematically inflate expenses with the help of other parties, who will return the inflated amount in cash through domestic hawala channels to the functionaries of the group,” read an I-T department statement.
The IT department carried out the searches based on credible information that the Believers Eastern Church, which enjoyed exemption under the I-T Act, 1961, as charitable/religious trust, received donations from foreign countries ostensibly for helping the poor and destitute and evangelical purposes but was actually siphoning off such tax-exempted funds to engage in unaccounted cash transactions for personal and other illegal expenses in real estate transactions.
“The group runs places of worship, several schools and colleges across the country, a medical college and a hospital in Kerala. The action covered 66 premises in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Karnataka, Chandigarh, Punjab and Telangana. During the search, the raiding teams unearthed evidence of systematic inflation of expenses in consumables, construction, real estate development and payment of salary etc. The searches shed light on a number of real estate transactions of the Believers Eastern Church involving unaccounted cash payments.
Related documents such as sale agreements have been seized. The group has inflated the price in real estate transactions to make it appear as though the money received in donations is being spent on the activities of the trusts,” the official statement said. “The evidence found so far indicate that the siphoning of funds in cash may run into several hundred crore. Unaccounted cash of approximately Rs 6 crore, including Rs 3.85 crore from a place of worship in Delhi, has been seized during the search,” the statement said. IT officials said a detailed investigation is on to unearth more shady deals carried out by the Believers Eastern Church.