India tax authorities interview cardinal about controversial land deals
Tax authorities in India have interviewed Cardinal George Alencherry in connection with a series of suspicious land deals that caused the Vatican to send a special administrator into his archdiocese.
Alencherry heads the Syro-Malabar Church, the largest Eastern Rite Catholic Church in India.
Last year, the cardinal was accused along with two senior priests and a real estate agent of selling several plots of land illegally, leading to a loss of over $10 million.
Critics said the deal violated both canon and civil law, since the land was sold for well below market value – Indian law forbids the irregular transfer of funds between charitable or religious trusts.
A case against the cardinal was dismissed by the High Court of India’s Kerala state in May.
However, India’s Income Tax Investigation Unit is looking into whether the land deal also involved tax evasion, and interrogated Alencherry for five hours on Thursday.
In June, tax authorities raided the offices of several companies involved in the land deals, although officials said it was directly related to the investigation.