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In a shocking development, the Karnataka Catholic Christian Association (AKCCA) has accused the Bengaluru Archbishop Peter Machado of being involved in a multi-million dollar scam. Machado, a vocal critic of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), was appointed as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Bangalore by Pope Francis.
Catholic group alleges fraud of $42 million, archbishop denies charges
On August 28, AKCCA has demanded an investigation by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) into the financial misappropriation of Asha Charitable Trust, which is owned by the archdiocese. The group, in a press conference held at Bangalore, has accused the Trust of siphoning off ₹3 billion ($42 million).
“It is a scam worth three billion, and it needs investigation, “AKCCA leader Raphael Raj informed the media. Raj stated that even though the archdiocese collected funds from foreign donors, it was not utilised as promised. He added that the annual audit report highlighted financial irregularities but the archdiocese ignored it and did not take action against the ‘guilty’.
Dismissing the charges levelled against him, Machado said on Wednesday, “I am open to any probe as I have nothing to hide. (They are trying) to make a mountain out of a molehill.” He claimed to have taken action against an official after discovering ‘manipulation’ to the tune of ₹2 million ($28,000). The matter is reportedly being investigated by the Bangalore police.
Retired Karnataka High Court Judge revealed details of financial impropriety
As per a report in Goa Chronicle, former Karnataka High Court Judge Michael F Saldanha had accused Peter Machado and Bishop of Mysuru, K A William, of ‘criminally misappropriating’ ₹49.5 crores collected for Coorg Disaster Relief work in 2018. Accusing William of fraud, he wrote, “Everybody overlooked the fact that this man was virtually cheating and looting because even after four months, not one rupee reached the victims. In the instances of natural calamity the relief has to be immediate and fast. In this case, neither happened.”
The former Judge revealed that both William and Machado together raised ₹6 crores in the name of charity. He stated that the duo convinced singer Sonu Nigam to perform free of cost at the St. Joseph High School Grounds while they charged for tickets, sponsors and enmassed ₹13 crores. All in all, they collected ₹49.50 crores. While William promised path-breaking relief work, the affected people were still struggling to make ends meet after 24 months. “This was the impressive package put out by this man who said that in the name of Jesus the rehabilitation would be real and meaningful,” the former Judge lamented.
Accusing Machado of misappropriation, ex-Judge Michael F Saldanha wrote, “Perhaps Archbishop Peter Machado can tell us how many night shelters for homeless persons he has constructed because this was one of his appeals made more than a year back at the time of the concert. If it is there in writing in the annexure so he is certainly accountable.”
In his defence, Peter Machado stated, “great respect for Justice Saldanha but I don’t know why he levels such allegations without verifying the facts. If we were not transparent, why did we inform the police? Allegations of this magnitude from a person like Saldanha will only tarnish the image of the Church. We account for every penny we get. We audit our accounts every year and file income tax returns.”
Bangalore Archbishop a vocal critic of CAA
Earlier in January, the Bangalore Archbishop had appealed to the Prime Minister to ‘reconsider’ his decision on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). With complete disregard to the fact that the minorities in the Islamic Republics of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh were persecuted on religious lines, Peter Machado stated in a memorandum, “We appeal to the central government to grant citizenship to the illegal migrants not on the basis of their religions, but on the merit of each individual case.” Highlighting ‘dangers’ of polarisation, he further advocated, “Religion should never be the criterion for citizenship of a country. Nor is violence a solution when there is a difference of opinion.”