Two Catholic priests were among 14 people arrested May 2 for allegedly kidnapping and assaulting Bishop Prasad Gallela of Cuddapah in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, police said. Cuddapah town's police superintendent Navin Gulati told ucanews.com that Father Raja Reddy engineered the kidnapping and attack on the bishop, motivated by "greed for money and power." Bishop Gallela, 54, and his driver were blindfolded, handcuffed and forcibly taken to an undisclosed location while they were returning home April 25 from a function. The criminals beat the bishop while demanding US$75,000 from the diocese, police told media May 2. Following an investigation, police arrested Fathers Raja Reddy, 48, and Mohan Reddy, 45, and the gang they organized to commit the crime. According to police, the suspects confessed to four earlier attempts to kidnap the bishop between April 6 and 15.
The suspects stole bank cards from the bishop and driver and left them on the highway early April 26 after the bishop agreed to pay $30,000, police said. Police charged the suspects with kidnapping for ransom, banditry, attempted murder, assault, and criminal conspiracy, the police official said. Each charge carries prison terms of 10 years to life, he added. Gulati said the priests were upset over being transferred, which led to the kidnapping, Gulati told ucanews.com Father Raja Reddy headed a network of homes for the poor, which receives overseas funding thorough the bishop. The priest accused the bishop of mishandling funds meant for the homes, police said. Diocesan chancellor Father Paul Prakash confirmed the two accused were priests of the diocese but said the diocese has no official information on the charges or arrests. Bishop Gallela was receiving medical treatment and unavailable for comment, his secretary Father Dharmendra said. Officials of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India in New Delhi also said they have no details about the case and could not respond. "However, if media reports are true, it is indeed shocking that priests are involved in the kidnapping of a bishop for money," said spokesman Father Gyanparakash Topno.
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