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Bishop in jail over suspect land deal

Alleged leased property sale lands Protestant clergyman in legal trouble

Bishop Baiju Gavit Bishop Baiju Gavit
  • ucanews.com reporter, Mumbai
  • India
  • March 19, 2012
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A retired Protestant bishop is facing a prison term on possible fraud charges after allegedly trying to sell prime Church-leased land in Mumbai.

Police arrested Church of North India (CNI) Bishop Baiju Gavit and two associates on Friday after a leading construction firm in the city complained it had paid them 55 million rupees (about US$1.1 million) for the land but did not get the required documents.

A local court has refused a bail application and remanded them in custody, police inspector C B Tatkare of the Economic Offenses Wing said yesterday.

Tatkare said they would appear in court again within three months after police gather further evidence against the accused.

The police official said his department has found sufficient incriminating evidence of fraud, deception and flouting rules regarding the use of leased property.

The land, which is owned by the government, was leased to the Church in 1953 for 99 years for educational and cultural activities.

Bishop Gavit is the chairperson of the Bombay Diocesan Trust Association, which manages the 4,266-sqare-meter plot of land in downtown Mumbai.

His associates, lawyer Rajnikant Salvi and his brother Shashikant Salvi, are its office bearers.

The three allegedly sold the land to Shapoorji Pallonji Group and collected 55 million rupees on the pretext of obtaining permission from the Defense Ministry and the Charity Commissioner.

When the firm did not get the documents it went to the police.

Tatkare said the police have frozen two bank accounts containing 15 million rupees and fixed deposits amounting to 40 million rupees belonging to the accused.

CNI Bishop Batavel Tiwade of Kolhapur, who looks after Pune diocese, condemned the retired bishop, calling the affair “an absolute case of fraud and cheating committed by a shepherd of the Church and his cronies.”

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