A viral claim suggests that Rs 7,000 crore was recovered from Believers Eastern Church in Kerala during Income Tax raids. An image of bundles of currency notes on a table has been shared to support the claim. Alt News has received multiple verification requests on its WhatsApp helpline number (+91 76000 11160) and official mobile application. It is noteworthy that the name of the church has been misspelt as ‘Bolorean’ Eastern Church. The claim also suggests that Bishop Johanan Wagyara was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate. The claim is viral on Facebook.
Alt News has also received verification requests for the claim.
The same claim was widespread earlier in May. Twitter user Subhash Pandey T.A.B. drew over 3,000 retweets for his post.
One Pinky Singh also tweeted the claim.
Facebook user Vidhyarthi Shivam posted a similar assertion.
Alt News performed a keyword search that led us to news reports from last year. Believers Church in Kerala’s Thiruvalla was raided by Income Tax officials on November 5, 2020. The Hindu reported, “An official statement said the searches followed credible information that the group had received donations from abroad ostensibly for helping the poor and for evangelical purposes.” The New Indian Express stated that raids were conducted at “66 premises of the church which include its headquarters and a medical college hospital run by the church at Tiruvalla”. The outlet quoted the official statement of the IT department stating that Rs 6 crore was recovered during the search, including Rs 3.85 crore unexplained cash found at a place of worship in Delhi.
A press release by the ministry of finance issued on November 6, 2020, also said that Rs 6 crore were seized during the raid.
Another article in The Indian Express said there was prima facie evidence suggesting the church had spent Rs 1,000 crore on real estate development. “I-T sources said the Union Home Ministry had earlier cancelled the FCRA account of Believers Eastern Church after it was found that foreign funds originally obtained for charity purposes have been diverted for religious needs,” per the report adding that the IT department had seized Rs 8 crore from various premises.
Mathrubhumi included some photos from the raid that resemble the viral image. The outlets said that an IT probe found that the church received R. 6,000 crore in foreign aid in the last five years. Income Tax officials recovered Rs 14.5 crore from offices of the church, the report added.
The priest whose image has been shared in the viral posts is KP Yohannan, the metropolitan bishop of the Believers Church. He has been misidentified as Bishop Johanan Wagyara in the viral claim. There are also no reports of any arrests taking place.
According to reports from last year, the IT department seized Rs 6-14.5 crore cash, not Rs 7,000 crore, from the premises of Kerala’s Believers Church. The reports also said that the IT officials had found evidence of Rs 6,000 crore received in foreign aid.