The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has uncovered alleged “diversion” of crores of rupees and misappropriation of church assets as part of a money laundering probe against a former bishop of the Church of North India (CNI) in Madhya Pradesh. The former bishop, P C Singh, was arrested by the ED last month from Jabalpur district of the state and is currently in judicial custody.
The federal agency said it carried out fresh searches in this case on April 22 at five locations in Pune, Pachmarhi and Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Jalandhar and Kolkata.
According to sources, the searches were conducted at the premises of Singh’s associates and relatives, who allegedly helped him in siphoning off the church’s funds. The ED has reportedly seized several incriminating documents, bank statements, and property papers during the searches.
The ED initiated a money laundering probe against Singh in 2019 after the Income Tax Department seized unaccounted cash worth Rs 6 crore from his premises during a raid. Singh was then serving as the Bishop of the CNI in Bhopal.
The ED alleged that Singh had been laundering money through shell companies, and had also acquired properties in his and his family members’ names by using the church’s funds. The federal agency said Singh had also taken loans from several banks by showing inflated church properties as collateral.
The ED has also alleged that Singh had misused his position as a bishop to transfer church funds to his personal accounts, and to award contracts to his own companies without following due process.
Singh has denied all the allegations against him, and claimed that the ED’s actions are part of a political conspiracy against him.
The CNI, which has over a million members and traces its origins to the Church of England, has said it is cooperating with the ED in the investigation. The CNI has also set up an internal committee to look into the matter and take necessary action.
The case against Singh is the latest in a series of corruption and money laundering probes against high-profile religious figures in India. In 2018, the ED arrested controversial self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a money laundering case, and in 2019, it arrested Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam, on charges of money laundering.