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Police charged over cash seized from Indian priest

Jalandhar Diocese officials say it was not 'black money' and diocese has been vindicated

ucanews.com reporter, New Delhi

ucanews.com reporter, New Delhi

Published: April 18, 2019 05:22 AM GMT

Updated: April 18, 2019 05:42 AM GMT

Police charged over cash seized from Indian priest

Father Antony Madasserry, superior general of the Franciscan Missionaries of Jesus, addresses a press conference in Jalandhar on March 31 after he was accused of keeping unaccounted cash. (Photo supplied)

Catholic officials in a northern Indian diocese say they have been vindicated by the charging of two police officers for allegedly looting some US$1 million in cash seized from a priest's residence.

Police in Punjab state announced that they had filed cases against against assistant sub-inspectors Joginder Singh and Rajpreet Singh, who have gone missing. They are charged with breach of trust as well as violating India's recently strengthened Prevention of Corruption Act.

Father Peter Kavumpuram, public relations officer of Jalandhar Diocese, claimed this vindicated the diocese's denial of wrongdoing.

Asian News International reported that on March 29 a priest named Father Antony Madasserry, director of Navjeevan (new life) Charitable Society, along with three others, had been arrested for alleged possession of unaccounted for cash.

The priest was said to be an aide of Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, who has been charged with raping a nun and is currently on bail.

A website called Dainikmail.com reported that more than 50 police raided what was described as the the priest’s "palatial" residence and seized bags and licensed weapons.

According to the police complaint against the priest, they took possession of some 165 million rupees (about US$2.2 million) at gunpoint.

However, they allegedly presented to tax officials some 69 million rupees less than this, a missing amount equivalent to nearly US$1 million.

Senior police officer Dhruv Dahiya said the two police officers accused of stealing the funds have been suspended and that investigators are searching for them.

Father Madasserry maintained that the money seized from his residence had been collected from schools for a firm headed by himself to provide various services such as stationery and uniforms.

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Father Kavumpuram said there was "no black money" involved so the funds should be returned to the diocese, which covers Punjab state as well as four districts of neighboring Himachal Pradesh state.

"Every penny is counted," he said. "We will get back the entire amount seized and stolen."

The priest said Father Madasserry's firm, which provides books, stationery, uniforms and security as well as printing services to schools in Jalandhar, had submitted details of the money to the Income Tax Department.

He claimed that the more than US$2 million worth of rupees in cash that was seized had accumulated at the residence because "it could not be deposited in the bank because of the absence of the accountant and Father Madasserry."

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