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Gospel For Asia Sued Over Alledged Misuse of Donations

Kochi: K.P.Yohannan, the self-proclaimed metropolitan of Believers’ Church, and the moving force behind a number of charity firms registered in the US, has landed in a legal battle in America on the charge that the money being raised by his organisations from the US citizens for charity service in India and other Asian nations, is being diverted to his multi-bullion business, including real estate, plantation and education activities.

The couple, Matthew Dickson and Jennifer Dickson, who has filed a petition against Yohannan at the district court of Arkansas, alleges that though he promises donors that money they contribute for the charity services would fully be utilised for the purpose, only a part of it is invested for the charity service and the major portion of it is used by him for asset creation.

The other defendants in the petition are Yohanan’s wife Gisela Punnose, his son Daniel Punnose, David Carroll, chief financial officer of the charitable organization Gospel For Asia Inc (GFA) to which Yohannan is a director board member, president and international director and Pat Emerick , director of Gospel For Asia International (GFA-International), a Canadian and German affiliate of GFS and the two organisations (GFA Inc and GFA-International) .

The couple who donates money to GFA, alleges in the petition that between 2007 and 2013 GFA has solicited over $ 450 million (nearly Rs. 3000 core) in donation from the US alone where the majority of GFA’s donors reside. Despite repeated and explicit promise by GFA, only a portion of the amount was spent for feeding, providing potable water, health care and education and creating job opportunities for poorest of poor in India.

The words and financial deeds of GFA is so mismatching that the Evangelical Council For Financial Accountability (ECFA), a private oversight body that reviews the finance of Christian organizations that solicit charitable donations, decertified GFA in September 2015 after investigating its finance.

Similarly, the couple says GFA which has registered as a non-profit entity and religious order and therefore, free from publishing its financial statements in the US, worldwide collected around $ 115,000, 000 ( Rs.747.5 crore) in donations in 20013 according to its financial statement, but documents in India shows that it spent only $ 14, 694,642 (Rs97.5 crore) for the need poor in India. Being a foreign charity entity, GFA has to disclose the amount spent in India in pursuance of the Indian Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010. Incidentally, outside the US, GFA is most active in India.

The husband-wife duo also alleges that of the $ 118.6million (Rs.767 crore) dispersed by GFA’s national offices in the US, UK, Australia, the New Zealand and Germany for helping the poorest of the poor in India, $ 37.8 million ( Rs.247 crore) was spent on administrative needs of various national offices, $ 24.3 million (Rs.156 crore) was spent for continuing construction of the GFA headquarters in Texas, where Yohnnan and his family reside, $ 76.3 million (Rs.494 crore) was provided to GFA – International. Of this, $ 43 million (Rs.279.5 crore) went missing, no longer accounted for in GFA financial documents nor accounted in India.

The couple also charges that though GFA affiliates are sitting on mountain of money, they spend only a mole for the promised purposes. For example, the four Indian-based GFA affiliates (GFA – India, Believers Church, Love India Ministries and Last Hour Ministries) received $ 33.6 million (Rs.221crore) in 2013. With the receipt of the amount, the bank balance of these four affiliate shot up to $ 170 billion (Rs.1,105 crore), and on this amount, an interest of more than $ 14 million (Rs.91 crore) was earned. This provided these four GFA – affiliates with more than $ 215 million (Rs.1397.5 crore) to spend.

However, of the $ 215 million (Rs. 1397.5 crore) of cash-in-hand, almost $ 15 million (Rs.97.5 crore) would have depreciated due to currency fluctuation and the GFA- affiliates closed the year with almost $ 150 million (Rs.975 crore in the bank account after together they spending $ 54.5 million (Rs.357.5. crore) during the year, Of $ 54.5 million, only $ 14.9 million (Rs.97.5 million) was spent on the direct relief to the poor and needy Indians. A sum of $ 9.2 million (Rs.58.5 crore) was spent for field administrative expenses, $ 14.7 million ( Rs.97.5 crore) was spent on purchase or construction of the for-profit Believers Church hospitals and $ 15.7 million (Rs. 104 crore) was spent on Believers Church salaries and overheads.

Yohannan created Believers’ Church in 2003. From 2003 through 2014 GFA solicited and collected approximately $ 700 million (Rs. 4550 crore ) from the US donors. During this period, Believers’ Church bought and operated a 2,300 acre of for-profit rubber plantation, the Cheruvally Rubber Estate, in Kerala, Carmel Engineering College, a for-profit undergraduate institution in Kerala, Believers’ Church Medical College hospital, a for-profit 500-bed teaching hospital, at least six for-profit primary schools in Kerala and sponsorship of a football club.

The petition says that in 2010 GFA purchased land and began constructing a state-of-the-art $ 45 million (Rs. 292.5 crore) compound in Wills Point at Texas, US. GFA initially claimed and presented as true through the financial documents of its auditing firm that a $ 20 million ( Rs.130 crore) anonymous donation was received for the development of 350-acre plot of land on which compound now sits.

In fact, the petition says, the $ 20 million came to GFA from GFA – India on the direction of Believers Church. Specifically, from the cash reserve of the GFA- India. The money donated by the US people for the charity service in India was, in fact, used in the US to develop the Wills Point compound.

GFA is now headquartered in 359-acre compound, including a massive headquarters building, a multi-million dollar chapel and 80+ single family residences for members of the GFA religious order.

These are only a few incidents cited by the plaintiffs to drive home their argument. The complaint contains many more such fraud by K.P. Yohannan who is not surprisingly a liberal donor of all political parties and mainstream media at his home state of Kerala.

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