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CSI moderator to clean up the Indian church: The Church of England Newspaper, September 23, 2012 p 6. September 26, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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Former CSI General Secretary Pauline Sathiamurthy

Anti-corruption activists in the Church of South India have applauded a series of reforms instituted by the church’s new moderator the Bishop in Kanyakumari, Gnanasigamony Devakadasham, to clean up the scandal plagued church.

Bishop Devakadasham  has appointed Adrian Rozario to serve as the CSI synod’s chief legal adviser, the Youth4CSI website reports.  Mr. Rozario spearheaded the investigation into the misappropriation of Tsunami relief funds donated by Episcopal Relief and Development to the Church of South India.

In 2009 detectives from the Central Crime Branch of the Madras police arrested the former General Secretary of the Church of South India (CSI) Dr Pauline Sathiamurthy on charges of stealing almost £1 million of the £2.2 million donated by Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD) to the CSI to help in relief efforts following the 2004 tsunami.

Dr Sathiamurthy, her husband, daughter and nephew were arrested on 13 Oct 2009 following a 10-month investigation by police. The alleged thefts came to light in 2007 when the Rev Moses Jayakumar was appointed General Secretary of the CSI in succession to Dr Sathiamurthy. Upon assuming office Fr Jayakumar found that a request for an accounting for the funds from ERD had been ignored by Dr Sathiamurthy and that the NGO had cut off funding pending an audit.

The CSI asked retired Madras High Court Judge J Kanagaraj to head the committee charged with investigating the defalcation. Dr Sathiamurthy declined to cooperate but Judge Kanagaraj found that she had appointed her husband to oversee the construction of houses built for survivors of the tsunami, her daughter to head up medical relief efforts, and her nephew to serve as a liaison officer for tsunami rehabilitation work — all at inflated salaries.

In December 2008 Fr Jayakumar turned the Judge Kanagaraj’s report over to the police and appointed Mr. Rozario to serve as the church’s attorney in the affair. The police began a criminal investigation and arrested Dr. Sathiamurthy. The daughter of the former moderator of the CSI and Bishop in Tiruchi-Thanjavur, Dr. Solomon Doraisawmy, Dr. Sathiamurthy was subsequently released on bail and has since absconded.

Following the election of the Bishop in Karnataka Central Diocese S. Vasanthakumar as moderator of the CSI in January 2010, the new moderator replaced Mr. Rozario as the church’s attorney.  Bishop Vasanthakumar, who was the subject of corruption and abuse of office claims and whose election as moderator was marred by accusations of vote buying, served as Deputy Moderator of the CSI when the Tsunami funds were stolen.

Under Bishop Vasanthakumar, the CSI declined to press the police to track down Dr. Sathiamurthy and recover the stolen funds.  With Mr. Rozario’s return to office, anti-corruption activists hope new interest will be shown by the church in resolving the scandal.