Land deal led to financial crisis
Breaking its silence over the controversial real estate deals rocking the Syro-Malabar Church, the Archdiocese of the Ernakulam-Angamali Syro-Malabar Church on Thursday issued a circular, in which diocesan authorities admitted there was a lack of transparency in the deals resulting in a huge financial burden to the Archdiocese.The circular, addressing priests and published on the website of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, was issued by auxiliary bishop Mar Sebastian Adayanthrath. The land scam kicked up such a storm that a section of priests demanded the resignation of Cardinal Mar George Alencherry as head of the church.
There are allegations that plots owned by the Archdiocese in and around Kochi at prime locations were sold at throwaway prices. In the circular, Mar Adayanthrath confirmed the liability of the church which was `60 crore earlier, now rose to `84 crore after the land deal. “What happened to the Archdiocese is not only a financial crisis but also a moral lapse. Facts that there was no transparency and ignorance of Canon law also raise serious moral concerns. Though the Archdiocese can recover from the financial crisis to a great extent, issues related to morality will prevail,” the circular noted.
“The Archdiocese had purchased 23.22 acres at Mattoor in Thuravoor village for the proposed medical college attached to Little Flower Hospital, Angamaly. The land was bought on a `60-crore bank loan. The plan was to sell the land at Varantharapally and repay the loan, but the sale of land at Varanthrapally did not happen in the expected time-frame. With this, the repayment of `60 crore became a burden for the Archdiocese. Following this, it was proposed the bank loan could be repaid by selling other land owned by the Archdiocese and five plots were identified which together had a total area of 306.98 cents. The price was fixed at `19 lakh per cent. The expected price was `27.30 crore. However, the agent who was entrusted with the sale of land divided it into plots and sold to 36 persons,” the circular said.
“As per the contract signed on June 21, 2016, the transactions had to be completed within one month. The archdiocese has so far received `9.13 crore only, even 1.5 years after the deal. The Archdiocese is yet to receive `19.17 crore. The 36 plots were sold without the knowledge of canonical committees. It is also learnt the advance was received before the matter came up for discussion before the canonical committees. Even in this condition, another bank loan of `10 crore was availed and 25 acres purchased at Kothamangalam and 17 acres at Devikulam in Idukki.