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CHENNAI: Church of South India Moderator Arrested for Embezzling $2.5 million

CHENNAI: Church of South India Moderator Arrested for Embezzling $2.5 million


By Dr Joseph G. Muthuraj
January 25, 2018

VOL: There was a time when the most corrupt province in the Anglican Communion was Mexico. In 2002, their archbishop and a local bishop ran off with more than $1.5 million, never to be heard from again. The money came from The Episcopal Church, who asked for little accountability and walked away from it all. TEC withdrew recognition of Bishop Samuel Espinoza as Primate of this church, and withdrew and suspended the episcopal authority and privileges of Bishops German Martinez Marquez and Samuel Espinoza.

Now, first place, for being the most corrupt province in the Anglican Communion is the Church of South India, where a battle rages over the Moderator's inordinate use of power to control everything, taking funds and using them for his own personal use. It's a nightmare story that seems never to end. Over the past two years VOL has run several stories on the emerging corruption in the CSI. The courts are now beginning to rule against CSI leaders. This is the latest developing story written by VOL's South India correspondent, Dr. Joseph Muthuraj.

David Virtue, DD

CHENNAI: Church of South India Moderator Arrested for Embezzling $2.5 million

By Dr Joseph G. Muthuraj

On Saturday, 20 January 2018, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Police arrested Bishop Govada Dyvasirvadam, the former General Secretary, Deputy Moderator and the Moderator of the Church of South India, who has ruled over the CSI Synod at all levels of administration for two decades, charging him with an unauthorised sale of church property and embezzling US$2.5 million for his personal use.

Looking cheerful as he walked towards the car amidst CID officials, he waved to his supporters as if he was being taken to a place of honour. The news came as jubilation for many, while his cronies and disciples took it as another hurdle on the path of their semi-god who could jump over mountains.

One newspaper reported that he was grilled with many questions and released at 6 pm on a written undertaking from the bishop that he would make himself available for all formal inquiry sessions.
It was hoped that he would be kept in custody until all the inquiries were over so he could not manipulate witnesses to his favour.

The Telugu TV news channel (AP 24x7), which reported the arrest, kept flashing a letter written by senior members of the diocese (Krishna-Godavari) to the CID in their region which brought three charges against bishop Dyva.

The charges are; that the bishop used his power to effect an unauthorised sale of church property and embezzle US$2.5 million for his personal use.

Secondly, one of his benamies (a benami is one who holds ownership on behalf of a real owner; CSI bishops have benamies of their own) sold 200 acres of land which belonged to the Church and the millions were shared with the bishop, his agents and supporters.

Thirdly, rent monies collected from the lease-holders of the Church properties did not go into the bank accounts of the church.

Mr. B. Yohan, former secretary of the Krishna-Godavari diocese had launched a complaint on 13 October 2017 against the bishop to the Crime Branch of the CID (CB-CID) who prepared a First Information Report (FIR) on four persons: Dyvasirvadam, his nephew Sudhir, the current Secretary and the Treasurer of the diocese.

According to the FIR, the bishop allegedly committed the following crimes punishable under the Indian Penal Code: i) dishonesty, ii) misappropriation of property, iii) criminal breach of trust, iv) criminal breach of trust by a public servant, v) cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property, vi) falsification of accounts, vii) acts done by several persons together in furtherance of a common intention.--i.e. when a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone.

The total value of money that was swindled was estimated at more than 1 billion Indian rupees, equivalent to US$16.6 million.

The bishop has approached the A. P. court to quash the FIR, which the court rejected. If the bishop is convicted on all these crimes, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

The bishop reacted by putting on the mask of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. He posed as a righteous sufferer, saying that he was arrested while spending time in prayer. Later he said, "I have been in this position (as a bishop) for several years. It hurts the religious sentiments of our community. All these accusations are false and fabricated by a few members, who don't like to see me as the bishop." (Time News Network 21 January 2018).

The archbishop has also, by his own action, extended the retirement age from 65 for a bishop to 67 so that he could hold on to his seat of authority for two more years. He is due to retire in March 2018, but observers are unsure he will stick to that. There are rumours that he is contemplating appointing his nephew (who on the arrest day jumped over the compound wall and ran from the Police) as the next bishop of the diocese so that the looting will be covered or/and continued with new vigour.

Secondly, all the bishops of CSI, blame the predominantly Hindu Government for hurting the sentiments of the minority Christians, attempting to place the problem in the political realm in order to embarrass the Government. No Indian political party wants to be classed as being opposed to the minorities which may affect the Christian vote-banks in some regions in India, though the Christian population does not have an imposing number.

Bishops seek to hide their sins to curtail Government interference into the affairs of the church and its administration by branding it as anti-Christian.

The bishop claims that his problems were created by a few men in the church and therefore should be discounted. The laity are jealous that a criminal (bishop) continues to be in the top position of religious authority, wearing a cross around his neck, speaking in religious language and acting in a pseudo-religious manner over many years. The bishops accuse those who speak truth to power for tarnishing the image of the church!

Bishop Dyvasirvadam's Society

Bishop Dyvasirvadam has put a legal front to his activities. He has registered in Machilipatnam, where the Bishop's House is, a Society called Krishna Godavari Diocesan Educational Society under the A. P. Societies Registration Act 35 of 2001 with the Registration number 729/2003. It has an aim "To establish and maintain educational institutions, viz. schools and colleges, for imparting knowledge and promoting education at all levels in Arts, Commerce, Fine Arts, Sciences, Engineering & Technology, Law, Medicine, School/College of Nursing, College of Psychotherapy, Hotel Management, and other vocational Trades/skills / disciplines within the jurisdiction of Krishna Godavari Diocese".

He has formed the diocesan educational Society as an independent Society, not bound to the CSI Synod in which he is the Moderator, or the Church of South India Trust Association of which he is the President. The diocesan educational institutions will be managed and administered by the Society, whose General Body/Executive Committee members will be the bishop himself (as the President), his wife with her maiden name, his son, his nephew, the bishop's chaplain and other close relatives and loyalists.

Two More Episcopal Money-changers

The Rt. Rev. Devakadasham, another former Moderator, attempted, as the President of the Kannyakumari diocese to mortgage prime properties and buildings in the service of the diocese to secure a loan of about US $1.7 million from the Punjab National Bank. He signed a Memorandum with the bank on 6 December 2017. Protest letters poured into the Punjab National Bank.
Unconfirmed reports say that the loan was withheld. Kadasham is near retirement. He has not allowed the CSI Synod to conduct elections to appoint a successor to himself. The diocesan administration is in disarray.

The Rt. Rev. Rajavelu, the bishop of Vellore diocese, was relieved by the Madras High Court on 14 December 2017 from functioning as the Secretary of the famous Christian College in Vellore following several pending criminal cases against him.

'Stay' against the SFIO Investigation -- I

A 45-page Report on the illegal affairs of the company CSITA, strongly recommends an investigation be carried out by the statutory body called the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO).

The Government in early July 2016 ordered a probe by the SFIO's into account books, bank accounts and other administrative activities of the CSITA for the last seven years. The investigation looms as a major threat to the bishops of the CSI, and hence a 'stay' was obtained from the Hyderabad High Court (case no. WP 38841/2016). The merit of the investigation was not questioned by the court.

'Stay' against the SFIO Investigation -- II

A new case was filed at the Madras High Court by members of the highest level of administration of the CSI to obtain a 'stay' on the SFIO renewing its investigation. An interim order of 'stay' was issued on 13 December 2017 by the Madras High Court.

'Stay' against the Report of the Registrar of Companies -- III

Another 'stay' was obtained in order to stop Government efforts. That was designed to stall the 45-page Report which was instrumental in ordering the investigation by the Indian Government. The Report served as a basis for initiating a high-level investigative action by the Government. An interim 'stay' has now been now granted.

'Stay' against the 43 Economic Offence cases - IV

Some 43 cases filed earlier by the Registrar of Companies in respect of various economic offences committed by the directors of the CSI Trust Association during the years 2015 and 2016, when Dyvasirvadam was Chairman of the CSITA. The Economic Offences Court in Egmore, Chennai (Madras) issued conviction orders on most of them. The 30 cases brought fines being imposed on them. All those cases were 'stayed' by the Madras High Court on 13 December 2017. If convicted, it will have serious consequences on the membership of the directors including bishop Dyvasirvadam and his previous colleagues and associates.

Bishops prepare for more 'stays'

Some CSI bishops are preparing to obtain more 'stays' with whatever excuses they can invent in order to avert arrest. They have chosen the medical condition of advancing age. They are crowding into the Christian Mission Hospital in Vellore to obtain medical certificates beforehand which they hope to use as instruments to save them from being put behind bars.

VOL in the Forefront of Exposing Corruption in the Church of South India

Since 2013 when we first documented the corruption in the Church of South India seen here: http://www.virtueonline.org/chennai-india-corruption-stalks-church-south-india we have been informing readers of the terrible situation the CSI and the CSITA are faced with.

Titles such as, "The Church of South India is being Raped by Corruption" (16 May 2016); "Office of the Church of South India Moderator Turns Pontifical (1 June 2016); "Devils Lurking in the Church of South India Account Books?" (12 July 2016); "Church of South India Hides Corruption in a Smoke Screen Call for Lenten Fest" (23 March 2017); "WE WANT BARABAS: A Destructive Episcopal Trend in the Anglican Communion" (16 April 2017); "Indian Theologian Blasts Duplicity of CSI Moderator's Easter Message" (18 April 2017); "The Caterpillar is not Given the Glory but the Butter-fly" (11 October 2017); "Church of South India: You Talk the Talk But Can you Walk the Talk?" (23 October 2017); "Ex-Anglicans are Being Choked and Starved within the 'Borderless Church' of South India" (26 November 2017)].

These stories can be seen at www.virtueonline.org and accessed through VOL's extensive archives.

The Rev. Dr. Muthuraj is a former member of St. John's College, Durham and a graduate of the University of Durham, UK. Through his publications, he has been established as a CSI historian who currently writes on the relationship between the united churches and the Anglican Communion. He has been one of the strongest voices in the global theological communion appealing for a renewal of Episcopacy to bring an end to the corruption in the Church of South India. He is VOL's South India correcpondent.

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