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Catholic lay leader accused over missing funds

Says allegations of misappropriating donations for orphans are 'bogus'

  • ucanews.com reporter, Mumbai
  • India
  • February 25, 2013
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A Catholic lay leader has been accused of raising money for orphans during the Christmas season that was allegedly not distributed.

Police raided the residence of Joseph Dias, founder and general secretary of the Mumbai-based Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), on Saturday and seized his computer.

"Prima facie it appears that Joseph Dias is running a racket and we have filed a case of cheating against him,” said Prashant Deshpande, deputy superintendent of police.

In December, Dias appealed for donations through his daily email service.

Malcome D' Souza, 22, who filed the complaint against Dias, told ucanews.com that he donated 2,000 rupees (US$37).

But Dias claimed he received no donation from him, despite a bank statement showing the money was credited to a CSF account on December 24, D'Souza said. 

On January 30, after the complaint was filed, Dias sent a receipt of the money and an email to D’Souza, claiming he fed 1,070 orphans in about 12 orphanages in Mumbai.

D'Souza said he submitted letters to the police from eight orphanages, saying they had not received anything from CSF or Dias.

However Dias has denied any wrongdoing and claims that efforts to accuse him of cheating donors are politically motivated.

In a statement sent to ucanews.com on Monday, Dias said through his lawyer that the allegations against him stem from his efforts to become vice chairman of the Maharashtra Minorities Commission.

He added in the statement that it was also a backlash over a criminal case he filed against a former member of the commission for criminal intimidation and defamation.

“The CSF suspects that the police have been pressured by one of these detractors to act on this complaint,” the statement said, adding that police have failed to act on his complaints though his life and property are in jeopardy.

Dias further claimed in the statement that the amount of 2,000 rupees was
“mysteriously” deposited into the CSF account, along with other donations in a bid to set him up.

The money was promptly distributed to a local orphanage, the statement said.

Other Catholic leaders expressed regret over the dispute.

"It is sad that such a thing has happened," said John Dayal, a lay leader based in New Delhi. He added it is only natural that donors seek accountability.

Abraham Mathai, a Mumbai-based leader of All India Christian Council, said the case is "shameful" for the entire community. He hoped the case could be sorted out and Dias presents clear accounts of donations.

Virginia Saldanha, a Catholic and women's rights activist based in Mumbai, said Dias should be "prepared to come clean. If you are working in the public domain, people have the right to question you."

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