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Indian bishop jailed for forgery: The Church of England Newspaper, March 31 2013, p 7. April 3, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption, Crime.
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Manickam Dorai

A retired Bishop of the Church of South India (CSI) has been sentenced to three years imprisonment and fined Rs 15,000 for forgery and fraud.  The conviction of the Rt. Rev Devaraj Bangera, the former Bishop in the Karnataka Southern Diocese last week follows news that the Indian tax authorities have seized the assets of the former Bishop in Coimbatore, Manickam Dorai– who last year was defrocked by the CSI for fraud and theft.

On 20 March 2013 a judge in Mangalore sentenced Bishop Bangera after the trial court found he had forged his birth certificate in order to avoid mandatory retirement at age 65. Elected Bishop in 2005 the bishop declined to step down from office on his 65th birthday on 29 June 2009.  He presented a birth certificate showing he had been born in 1945 and brought suit to block his retirement.

However the newly appointed treasurer of the diocese, while investigating allegations of theft made against Bishop Bangera, uncovered a birth certificate dated 1944. An inquiry with the municipality that had allegedly issued in 1945 birth certificate found it was a forgery and bishop’s true birth year was 1944.  Bishop Bangera currently is on bail pending appeal.

Last month the Enforcement Directorate (ED) of the Indian tax authority attached properties registered in the name of the life and brother of the former Bishop in Coimbatore Manickam Dorai under the rules governing the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.  The levies came after the Tamil Nadu state police registered a case against Bishop Dorai and his brother for “misappropriation of Diocese funds, a public charitable trust, to the tune of Rs 7.93 crore” (£865,000).

In 2012 Bishop Dorai was defrocked by the CSI after he was found guilty of fraud and theft of church funds.

Indian bishop suspended for corruption: The Church of England Newspaper, June 24, 2012. June 25, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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T. Samuel Kanaka Prasad

The Church of South India’s Bishop in Medak, the Rt. Rev. T. Samuel Kanaka Prasad has been suspended for corruption by the Synod Executive Committee.

In a letter to the bishop dated 9 June 2012, the Moderator of the CSI Bishop G. Devakadasham stated the Synod Executive Committee had voted on 24 April for suspension in the face of prima facie evidence of corruption, but had been unable to enforce the decision due to a court order blocking the decision secured by Bishop Prasad.  However, when the order lapsed on 5 June, the Executive Committee was free to enforce its decision, and ordered Bishop Prasad to step aside, the moderator said.

Bishop Prasad is the second bishop this year to be disciplined by the CSI. On 9 January 2012 the moderator announced that the trial court for bishops had deposed the Bishop in Coimbatore, the Rt. Rev. Manickam Dorai for corruption.  However, corruption remains widespread in the Indian church, lay activists charge, telling The Church of England Newspaper that only “8 or 9” of the CSI’s 21 current bishops were untainted by corruption charges.

One of India’s wealthiest dioceses, the Hyderabad-based Medak diocese has witnessed legal and physical fights between the bishop and his opponents.  On 10 June 2012, the Deccan Chronicle reported that police were called out to separate the bishop’s men from anti-corruption activists who rallied for Bishop Prasad to go.

In his letter to Bishop Prasad, the Moderator accused him of “not functioning and discharging the responsibilities of Bishop of CSI Medak Diocese in accordance with the provisions of the constitution of the CSI, the directions of the Synod or its Executive Committee and the Council of Bishops.”

“In particular it was brought to the notice of the Executive Committee that you are misusing your position as Bishop, acting as attorney of the CSITA even after the lapse of the power of attorney and committing various illegalities in the administration, supervision and preservation of the properties of the Church. The members expressed shock and anxiety over the same and demanded immediate action against you by the Synod.”

CSI Deputy Moderator Bishop G. Dyvasirvadam of Krishna Godavari was appointed Moderator’s Commissary for Medak by the Executive Committee following Bishop Prasad’s suspension, and a nine-member administrative committee led by a retired Director General of Police has been charged with auditing the diocese’s books.

In addition to accusations of financial malfeasance, Bishop Prasad has been charged with violating canon and civil corporate law.  In 2011 Bishop Prasad banned his opponents from standing for election to the diocesan council and waived rules that forbade sitting council members from serving more than two consecutive terms – subsequently producing a council composed of the bishop’s cronies.

The CSI General Synod refused to recognize the election and attempted to block the seating of the diocese’s delegates at its January meeting to elect a new primate.  However, Bishop Prasad was able to secure a court order allowing his men to be seated at the 33rd meeting of Synod.

The anti-corruption pressure group, the CCC [Christ-Centered Coalition] applauded the Synod’s decision to suspend Bishop Prasad, but asked whether its decision was influenced by Bishop Prasad’s support for the losing candidate in the election for moderator this year.

“What is disconcerting is the double standards being applied by the current synod administration in handling cases of Episcopal corruption,” the CCC said.  The CSI Moderator had allowed the Bishops in Rayalaseema and Dornakal to retire rather than face corruption investigations.  “Is it only a coincidence that both the Rayalseema and Dornakal bishops who supported Moderator Devakadasham and his deputy Dyvasirvadam at the Synod polls in January have got away with their crimes while Bishop Kanaka Prasad who supported their opponents (the Bishops in Madras and Karimnagar) has had punitive action taken against him,” the CCC asked.

Bishop Prasad did not respond to our request for comments, but his son, William Carry told the Deccan Chronicle his father would fight the suspension.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Indian bishop sacked for theft: The Church of England Newspaper, January 20, 2012 p 7. January 24, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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Bishop Dorai leaving the CSI synod hall after being turned away on 13 Jan 2012 : Photo CCC

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A trial court of the Church of South India (CSI) has found the Bishop in Coimbatore guilty of misconduct and directed he be removed from office and deposed from ordained ministry.

On 9 January 2012 the Moderator of the CSI, the Rt. Rev. S. Vasanthakumar released a letter written to the clergy of the diocese reporting that the synod court had “unanimously passed the sentence that Bishop Manickam Dorai cannot be continued as Diocesan Bishop any longer.”

The “Bishopric of the Coimbatore Diocese has become vacant with immediate effect,” the letter stated, and as per the CSI’s canons, the moderator of the CSI will serve as diocesan bishop until a new bishop is elected. Bishop Vasanthakumar asked the clergy to “kindly make an announcement of the above mentioned facts during the worship services in your churches” on 15 January.

On 2 July 2010 the executive committee of the CSI’s General Synod placed Bishop Dorai on an indefinite leave of absence and dissolved the diocese’s executive council. The bishop and his cronies were accused of embezzling diocesan funds and taking kickbacks on construction projects amounting to over £500,000.

An October 2010 report by a fact finding committee led by retired Karnataka High Court Justice Michael Saldhana found evidence of criminal behavior by the bishop. It said Bishop Dorai had pledged diocesan bank accounts, trust funds and pension funds as collateral for personal loans, sold admissions to diocesan schools, took kickbacks on building contracts and diverted diocesan funds for his personal use. They found the bishop had authorized the sale of diocesan property to real estate developers at approximately 20 per cent of their market value, in return for what the committee believed were kickbacks from the real estate developers.

“These transactions are not a mere case of mismanagement but point to rank dishonesty and criminality,” the committee said.

On 17 May 2011 the Crime Branch-CID of the Tamil Nadu Police filed a 500 page charge sheet with the Chief Magistrate in Coimbatore, accusing Bishop Dorai, his two brothers, and four other accomplices with defrauding his diocese of over £500,000. The former bishop’s criminal trial is expected to begin later this year sources tell The Church of England Newspaper.

The former bishop’s removal from the ministry must be affirmed by the CSI Synod executive committee, which is scheduled to meet later this month in Kanyakumari. However, his dismissal has already been enforced. When the former bishop attempted to enter last week’s meeting of the CSI General Synod, he was ejected.

Should Bishop Dorai seek a civil injunction to block his removal, the CCC – a lay anti-corruption advocacy group in the CSI – reports the “CSI Constitution states in Rule 28 of Chapter XI on ‘The discipline of the church and settlement of disputes’ that ‘No decision or judgment of the Court of the Synod shall be subject to appeal or revision by any person or court outside the Church of South India.’ Were Bishop Dorai to challenge his dismissal before the Madras High Court it would be interesting to see how this provision holds up as it appears to be prima facie in violation of the Indian [civil] Constitution.”

Indian bishop hits back against accusers: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 7, 2011 p 6. October 7, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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Bishop Manickam Dorai

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The battle between the suspended Bishop in Coimbatore and the Church of South India’s (CSI) standing committee took a new turn last week, after charges of fraud were leveled against the bishop’s accusers.

The Hindu newspaper reported that a court has ordered police to investigate charges of fraud leveled against the moderator of the CSI, Bishop S. Vasanthakumar, the acting bishop in Coimbatore, and the general secretary and treasurer of the CSI general synod along with six other church officials by supporter of Bishop Manickam Dorai.

According to a complaint filed in the Madras High Court by Arul Prabhu, the moderator and his confederates misappropriated 1 million rupees (approximately £13,000) from the accounts of the CSI Engineering College in Ketti.

Last year the Bishop Dorai was suspended by the CSI synod while he stood trial on criminal charges of embezzling funds from the college.  The synod appointed Dr. Paul Vasantha Kumar, Bishop in Tiruchy-Thanjavur, as acting bishop for the diocese and assumed management of its financial affairs.

Mr. Prabhu alleges the church leaders withdrew the funds from the operating accounts of the college to underwrite the costs of the World Classical Tamil Conference held in Coimbatore last year.  However, an inquiry found the funds were not paid over to the conference.

When he brought this discrepancy to the attention of the CSI moderator, Bishop Vasanthakumar took no action.  Last month he brought the matter to the attention of the Madras court, which directed the police to conduct a probe and register a case, if a cognizable offence was made out in the inquiry.

Church leaders did not respond to requests for clarification, but the anti-corruption watchdog the CCC (Christ Centered Coalition) told CEN they were encouraged by the investigation.

“This is a welcome sign that the the long existing pact among thieving bishops in the CSI not to squeal on each other is falling apart. Disgraced Bishop Dorai of Coimbatore, who is facing a battery of criminal cases and blames the Moderator and his fellow office bearers for his plight, has found a way to hit back … by getting one of his followers Mr Arul Prabhu to file the case against the CSI top brass.”