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Court overturns church college appointment: The Church of England Newspaper, October 28, 2012 p 7. October 30, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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The American College, Madurai India

An Indian court has overturned the appointment of the head of the Church of South India’s American College, saying the late bishop in Madurai-Ramnad had colluded with his son-in-law to engineer the younger man’s appointment as principal.

Elected bishop in Madurai-Ramnad in 2003, Bishop Asir was also elected deputy moderator of the CSI in 2008.  In 2010 he stood for election as Moderator, but lost by 8 votes.

At the time of his death in February 2012, Bishop Christopher Asir had been fighting tax fraud charges brought by the Indian government. The District Revenue Collector of Madurai had charged the bishop with being part of a criminal ring that had defrauded the diocese of £925,000 by selling college land and pocketing the proceeds.

In response to a lawsuit brought by a member of the staff, on 15 Oct 2012 Justice Vinod Kumar Sharma quashed the appointment of M. Davamani Christober as principal of the church-owned college.  The court accepted the petitioner’s claim the bishop and his son-in-law had created a search committee composed of their cronies and had participated in subsequent board meetings “without revealing the fact that Mr. Christober had applied to the post of Principal as early as February 21, 2011. It is clear proof of collusion between the two.”

However, the court did not rule on the claim the appointment had been engineered to cover up the bishop’s alleged thefts.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Bishop fighting tax fraud charges dies: The Church of England Newspaper, February 10, 2012, p 6. February 17, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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Bishop Christopher Asir

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A bishop fighting tax fraud charges brought by the Indian government has died.  On 3 February 2012 the former Deputy Moderator of the Church of South Indian and current Bishop in Madurai-Ramnad, the Rt. Rev. A. Christopher Asir, died at the Madurai Meenakshi Mission Hospital from cancer.  He was 64.

Elected bishop in Madurai-Ramnad in 2003, Bishop Asir was elected deputy moderator of the CSI in 2008.  In 2010 he stood for election as Moderator, but lost by 8 votes to Bishop S. Vasanthakumar.

Last month Bishop Asir was called to testify before the District Revenue Collector of Madurai to respond to charges that he had been part of a criminal ring that included a serving government minister that had defrauded his diocese of £925,000 by selling church land and pocketing the proceeds.

Bishop Christopher Asir and Mr. M.K. Alagiri – the Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers – were ordered to appear before the tax authority on 4 Jan 2012 following a year long investigation into the bishop’s stewardship of church lands.

On 28 Jan 2011 Justice V. Kuruppiah of the Madras High Court directed the police to investigate Bishop Asir, Mr. Alagiri and Pauline Sathyamurthy, the former treasurer of the CSI who is currently being sought by police in connection with the theft of tsunami relief funds for selling land given to the diocese by an American mission society for £2.2 million and then pocketing £925,000 of the proceeds.

A prima facie case of malfeasance was found to have occurred by the district officer and the case passed to his superiors for investigation.

Tax fraud hearing for Indian bishop: The Church of England Newspaper, January 6, 2012, p 7. January 10, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India.
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Bishop Christopher Asir

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A bishop of the Church of South India (CSI) and an Indian government minister are set to appear before tax authorities this week to answer charges that they defrauded the Diocese of Madurai-Ramnad of £925,000 by selling church land and pocketing the proceeds.

Bishop Christopher Asir and Mr. M.K. Alagiri – the Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers – have been called to appear before the District Collector of Madurai, Mr. U. Sagayam, on 4 Jan 2012.  The summons follows an investigation by the revenue divisional officer in Madurai in October to respond to questions over the bishop’s stewardship of church lands.

The investigation began on 28 Jan 2011 Justice V. Kuruppiah of the Madras High Court directed the police to investigate Bishop Asir on charges brought by lay members of the diocese.  The bishop was accused of defrauding the diocese by selling church land at below market prices in return for a kickback from the buyer.  The investigation was subsequently turned over to the federal tax authorities for investigation.

The transaction under investigation concerned land given to the CSI in 1947.   An American missionary society assigned 46.71 acres of land belonging to the Lucy Perry Noble Institute for Women to the Church of South India Trust Association (CSITA). The terms of the transfer required the CSITA to hold the land in perpetuity on behalf of the church and rent the property, using the income to support women’s ministries in the church.

However, Bishop Asir in collusion Mr. Alagiri and Pauline Sathyamurthy, the former treasurer of the CSI who is currently being sought by police in connection with the theft of funds donated by Episcopal Relief and Development to assist survivors of the 2004 tsunami, sold 6.74 acres of land for £2.2 million, pocketing £925,000 of the proceeds.  A prima facie case of malfeasance was found to have occurred by the district officer and the case passed to his superiors for investigation.

A second legal headache for Bishop Asir has been resolved in his favour, however.  On 23 Nov 2011 the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court dismissed a sexual harassment complaint brought against the bishop by a former staffer, Magdalene Nesakumari.

Ms. Nesakumari alleged she had been sexually harassed by the bishop and denied promotion after she rebuffed his sexual advances.  In dismissing petition Justice V Periya Karuppiah said the complaint had been improperly filed and should be first directed to a judicial magistrate for investigation and adjudication.