Probe against Indian Protestant ex-bishop widens

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

May 2, 2023

By UCA News reporter

Federal agency claims several office bearers of the Church of North India are involved along with the dismissed prelate

India’s federal investigating agency has claimed that it has unearthed financial violations by a former Protestant bishop and several officers-bearers of the Church of North India (CNI).

Various office-bearers of the CNI, including former Bishop P. C. Singh, have been found “involved in gross misappropriation of Church properties through sale or renting out at much lower prices by showing them as deteriorating and encroached,” said a press release by the Enforcement Directorate (ED)on April 28.

The federal agency has been probing allegations of money laundering and foreign exchange violations against Singh, a former bishop of Jabalpur diocese of the CNI, a union of Protestant churches based in northern India. He was also the moderator of CNI’s 27 dioceses.

Singh was arrested on April 12 from his residence in Jabalpur in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh following a raid. Singh is in judicial custody and is lodged in Jabalpur central prison.

Singh is accused of diverting millions of rupees meant to be paid to a CNI trust, the release said.

The federal agency claimed to have seized incriminating documents against Singh during multiple raids at 13 locations in India. 

The ED on April 22 searched five locations connected to the CNI and Singh. The raids were conducted in Pune in the western state of Maharashtra, Indore and Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh, Jalandhar in the northern state of Punjab, and Kolkata in the eastern state of West Bengal.

On March 15, the federal officers raided six locations and recovered cash worth Rs 5,37,500 (US$6,564) and other incriminating documents.

The ED launched its own investigations after a case was registered against Singh by the economic offenses wing of the state police in Madhya Pradesh in September 2022. 

The state police arrested him and remanded him in custody until January this year for alleged charges of misappropriation of funds, forgery, and cheating.

They also accused him of diverting funds from diocesan schools for his personal use, besides being involved in money laundering.

The police claimed to have unearthed cash worth 16 million Indian rupees (US$200,000) and foreign currency worth some US$250 during the raids. 

Following Singh’s arrest, the CNI dismissed him from the office of the bishop and of the moderator.