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Police arrest brother of Asia's richest evangelizer

Kerala preacher's spokesman strongly denies any links

ucanews.com reporter, Thiruvananthapuram
India

August 19, 2013

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Police in Kerala yesterday arrested the brother of Asia’s richest evangelizing Christian, KP Yohannan, for allegedly running a racket in defunct currencies.

KP Punnoose, the 62-year-old elder sibling of the self-appointed archbishop of the Kerala-based Believer’s Church, was arrested for unauthorized possession of defunct Yugoslavian dinars, police said.

A spokesman for the Believer’s Church, Sijo Panthapallil, distanced Yohannan from the case saying that the two brothers have had “no personal links” for the past 25 years.

“[Punnoose] had earlier tried to misuse the name of the church and the bishop and we had issued an advertisement in newspapers stating that Punnoose has no links with the church,” he said.

Yohannan, dubbed Asia’s richest evangelizer, reportedly has assets worth US$175 million as the head of the Believer’s Church and Gospel for Asia, a trust.

Punnoose, a village council head and local leader of the ruling Congress Party, was arrested after his alleged currency agent, Vimalraj, 32, was caught by police following a dispute at a shop in Kerala’s Thiruvalla town.

Both men admitted possessing Yugoslavian dinars, which have not been in circulation since Serbia became the last nation of the former Baltic state to stop using the currency in 2003.

Punnoose and Vimalraj are believed to be involved in a scam, promising to exchange defunct currencies for Indian rupees then running away with the money.

“We confiscated the Yugoslavian bills and high-value currencies of some 20 other nations when we raided Punnoose’s house,” said Police Superintendent Putta Vimaladithya of Pathanamthitta district where the two men were arrested.

“We don’t know whether the bills are genuine or fake,” he added.

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