Social Media Posts Exaggerate Raid On Kerala's Believers Eastern Church
BOOM found that the official press release by the IT department stated that it had found approx six crores during the raid on Kerala-based Believers Eastern Church
A collage of two photos showing huge stacks of 500 rupee notes laid out on a table and a photo of a Christian priest is being shared with a misleading claim that 7000 crore rupees was seized from Kerala-based Believers Eastern Church during a raid.
The message further claims that no media or "anti-Hindu" leader will show this.
BOOM found that the viral social post is misleading on multiple counts and exaggerates the amount seized during the raid.
The collage is being shared with the caption, "7000crore black money seized from a Kerala church, but no media or anti-Hindu leader will show this" (sic).
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A variation of the claim also identifies the priest in the photo as Bishop Johanan Vagayara.
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The same collage is also being shared with the misleading claim on Facebook. The photos were also viral back in November 2020 with the misleading claim.
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BOOM found that the message is misleading and has confused several details.
The priest in the viral collage is KP Yohannan, founder & director of Gospel for Asia, Metropolitan Bishop of Believers Eastern Church, who has been misidentified as Bishop Johanan Vagayara.
Income Tax Department Raided Believers Eastern Church In 2020
The Income Tax department on November 5, 2020, the raid did not take place recently as the message implies.
The department carried out search and seizure operations at 66 premises located in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Karnataka, Chandigarh, Punjab and Telangana.
Unexplained Cash Of Approximately 6 Crore Rupees Was Seized
A press release by the IT department on the raid said that IT officials seized unexplained cash of about six crore rupees. This is much lower than the 7000 crore rupees claimed in the viral posts.
"Unexplained cash of approximately Rs. 6 crores has also been found during the search, including Rs 3.85 crore in a place of worship in Delhi," the press release stated on the amount of money recovered.
Click here to read the IT department's press release.
The searches were conducted on the basis of credible information the department received which alleged the group was siphoning off donations received from abroad to help the poor for personal expenses, illegal expenses and real estate transactions, according to the press release.
The press release said that according to the probe by the IT department, "the evidence found so far indicate that the siphoning of funds in cash may be running into hundreds of crores of rupees".
Where Did 7000 Crore Figure Come From?
Some media reports had reported that according to official sources, a total of Rs 14 crore was seized, however, there was no official confirmation of this.
We found a Mathrubhumi report, which had photos from the raid matching the viral photo. The photos can be seen here. The report also claimed that the IT department probe found that the church received six thousand crores in foreign aid in the last five years. However, this figure of 6000 crores is not in the IT department's press release.
The Believers Eastern Church had dismissed the reports on Income Tax authorities unearthing massive irregularities, including real estate transactions involving unaccounted cash claiming they are "either half-true or totally fake".
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