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Tax Authorities in India Seize Home of Gospel for Asia Founder Bishop K.P. Yohannon

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Income tax authorities in India have confiscated the estate of Bishop K.P. Yohannan, founder of Gospel for Asia and Believer’s Eastern Church, four months after the country’s ministry of finance raided the church’s offices looking for evidence of tax fraud.

The Income Tax Department seized 2,000 acres of land along with the Cheruvally estate in connection with an ongoing money laundering case, Karma News reported.

In November 2020, tax authorities searched the offices of Believer’s Eastern Church as well as several other buildings owned by Gospel for Asia, saying they had received credible information that the group had illegally used tax-exempt foreign donations for personal and real estate transactions. Government officials said the ministry operates about 30 trusts across the country, many of which have been found to exist only on paper and are suspected of being used to reroute funds.

The November search-and-seizure action took place at 66 places of worship, schools, and colleges that the organization led by Yohannan runs across India, including the church’s national headquarters at Thiruvalla. Unexplained cash of approximately 60 million rupees, or about $807,000, was found during the search.

Yohannon was summoned to appear before the tax authority in December to discuss alleged violations of India’s Foreign Exchange Control Act, but failed to appear. He is currently believed to be in the United States at Gospel for Asia’s Wills Point, Texas, headquarters, Karma News said.

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The ministry’s financial mismanagement was first exposed in 2015 when the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) terminated Gospel for Asia’s membership after a review of the group’s practices. At the time, the ECFA found that Gospel for Asia had violated five of the financial accountability group’s seven standards, touching virtually every aspect of the ministry.

In 2019, Gospel for Asia settled a $37 million case in the United States over misuse of funds. In February 2020, Canadian donors filed a class action lawsuit claiming the nonprofit had misused more than $100 million in  gifts.

The Canadian class action claims the charity solicited tens of millions of dollars from Canadians who were told the funds would be used to help the poor in India, but instead used the money to construct a “luxurious” headquarters compound in Texas, and that the ministry kept millions in reserve funds and foreign bank accounts.

During arguments for the U.S. lawsuit, Gospel For Asia admitted taking $20 million from Canadian donations to help pay for the $45 million Texas headquarters.

The ministry filed for creditor protection in Canada in June 2020, claiming it needed financial shelter from the U.S. lawsuit settlement, decreased donations due to the coronavirus and potential fallout from the Canadian suit.

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.