Indian police search ex-bishop accused of economic crimes

Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) [Hong Kong]

March 17, 2023

By UCA News reporter

Allegations against the former moderator of the Church of North India (CNI) have put all its dioceses under police scanner

Federal officials combating economic crimes in India have raided the office and residence of a former bishop of the Protestant Church of North India (CNI), who was sacked by his Church following allegations of money laundering some six months ago.

The officials of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the economic intelligence agency responsible for enforcing economic laws and fighting economic crime in India, ended on March 17 a two-day raid of the residence of former bishop P. C. Singh of Jabalpur in central Indian Madhya Pradesh state.

The latest raid comes six months after state officials of the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) raided Singh’s residence in Jabalpur and arrested him on charges of money laundering.

The EOW, a special wing of the state police dealing with economic offenses, seized cash worth 16 million Indian rupees (some US$200,000) and foreign currency worth some US$250 from the bishop’s house, besides documents of properties and vehicles allegedly disproportionate to his income.

Singh was also accused of diverting the funds of diocesan schools for his personal use and was suspected of having been involved in money laundering.

The federal team conducted the searches at his places following this input from the state’s officials, said an official source. He said the search began on March 15 and continued until March 17.

Singh, family members, and their associates were interrogated during the course of the raid, the official said but refused to disclose any details about it.

Besides Jabalpur, federal officials had reportedly raided different places associated with CNI in Nagpur, a major town in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, and Ranchi, the state capital of the eastern state of Jharkhand.

The state’s EOW sleuths arrested Singh on Sept. 12 from Nagpur airport on his return from Germany. They charged him with misappropriation of funds, forgery and cheating among other things.

The prelate was later remanded to judicial custody but is out on bail since January 2023.

Soon after he was taken into custody, the Church of North India dismissed him from his offices as the bishop of Jabalpur and moderator of the synod.

“The seizure of foreign currencies from his residence seemed to have led to the latest raids,” said a Church official who did not want to be named.

As the moderator of the CNI synod, Singh headed the top decision-making body of 27 CNI dioceses at the time of his arrest. 

Church officials suspect Singh’s role as moderator put all CNI dioceses under police scanner.

The CNI owns extensive landed properties and institutions across India inherited from the Anglican Church of the British era. The CNI was formed in 1970, uniting all the Protestant churches in northern India.

After unification, the properties independently owned by the churches came under the administration of the CNI, which is now part of the worldwide Anglican Communion and a member of the World Methodist Council.