Asia’s richest evangelist accused of fraud and corruption
KP Yohannan, the founder and Archbishop of Believers of the Eastern Church, is a controversial religious figure in Kerala. Accused of embezzling funds collected for charities for purposes of religious proselytism, he was scanned by the income tax service. Yohannan is believed to be Asia’s richest evangelist with assets of over $ 175 million. In addition to leading the Eastern Church of Believers, he also runs a Texas-based trust called Gospel for Asia.
Yohannan founded the Christian Church of Believers in 2000 in Thiruvalla in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. He declared himself a “bishop” and had appointed bishops from northern India and the Church of southern India for his coronation as “bishop.” Later, he declared himself “archbishop” and hired 6 junior bishops under him.
Charitable funds used for the purchase of real estate
In June 2015, the government of Kerala issued orders to reclaim land illegally belonging to the Eastern Church of Believers. There are reports that funds raised by Gospel for Asia to improve the lives of orphaned children have been used to purchase real estate. The Eastern Church of Believers, led by Yohannan, purchased one of the estates named Cheruvally Estate from charity funds. Under the provisions of the Land Conservancy Act, the government ordered the property to be taken back from the Church and other groups.
He had purchased 2,263 acres of rubber plantations from Harrisons Malayalam Limited for ₹ 85 crore in 2005. Although Yohannan claimed that income from real estate was to make the Church self-sufficient to run orphanages, it was found that the the evangelist spent more. only ₹ 300 crore on the property. A government investigation revealed that the documents presented by Harrisons Malayalam Limited for the sale of the rubber estate had been forged. As such, the government of Kerala has issued orders for its recovery. An earlier investigation in 2008 found that Yohannan had received ₹ 1,044 crore from the United States.
The IT department raided the Eastern Church of Believers in November last year
In a major crackdown in November 2020, the Income Tax Department raided the premises of Believers Eastern Church in Thiruvalla, central Kerala. The IT department had unearthed a major financial scam and recovered a whopping ₹ 8 crore in cash. The Union Home Office previously canceled the FCRA license from Believers Eastern Church to conduct evangelistic activities using charitable funds. This was despite the fact that the Church had claimed to have received the gifts through the proper channels.
Believers in the Eastern Church have reportedly received over ₹ 7,000 crore over the past 8 years, through other trusts. The Church had also used its funds in real estate transactions and building institutions. In fact, the Church of Believers reportedly continued to receive funds from various trusts even after their license was canceled. The Eastern Church of Believers has also funded several political parties. The IT department has been studying transactions for over 10 years.
Yohannan established a huge business empire in the name of Christian Mission: Christian leader
For his larger-than-life and cult status, Yohannan had drawn the wrath of members of the Christian community. A lay Christian leader by the name of Shaiju Antony said: “The Church of the Believers and its self-proclaimed Archbishop KP Yohannan have amassed enormous wealth through foreign donations and purchased land and estates of thousands of hectares in several regions. from the country.
He added: “A rubber estate he bought in Kottayam [district in Kerala] alone, nearly 2,500 acres. How can an individual make so much money in less than two decades? Yohannan and his accomplices in the name of a Christian mission established a huge business empire… (The leaders of the modern Church) are in search of money and have lost the sense of religion and God, and of justice and love, which Jesus taught us. Most churches have lost track.
Yohannan uses his ‘influence’ to evade legal and public scrutiny
However, whenever Yohannan got into trouble, he was quick to astutely use his political and religious influence to evade public accountability. In January of this year, about 25 Christian leaders came forward to vouch for the “credibility” and “integrity” of his Texas-based trust, called Gospel for Asia. They praised the evangelist for serving the Lord “faithfully” in 18 countries in South Asia.
In his defense, Sermon Index founder Greg Gordon said, “I have seen first-hand the work in Asia, the training of ministry leaders, churches and Bridge of Hope centers. Frugality, simplicity, and divine wisdom are evident in all the work. Everything is done for an everlasting purpose with the longevity of a church in mind where millions of people experience the love of Christ who have never heard the name of Jesus. Dr KP Yohannan imitated this example of sacrifice and commitment to Jesus.