CSI reportedly under I-T scanner

The second largest church in India is now under the scanner of Income Tax (IT) Department.

The Church of South India (CSI) is being reportedly investigated for alleged misappropriation of funds allocated for the Tsunami relief.

Apparently the Church had twice requested for extensions when asked for details on foreign donations, especially the funds received for relief of Tsunami victims.

The I-T department had initially given a deadline of December 20, 2010 after when another was given for January 20, 2011. Both the times the Church of South India Trust Association (CSITA) had failed to respond on the notice by the office of the deputy director of the income tax department.

A report by the Deccan Chronicle said the notice had asked for details of foreign donations spent by the Church's central office and all the dioceses and of foreign donations received under the Tsunami Relief Fund and how the money had been used.

In also asked about costs debited in the Synod account for construction of the LIT auditorium at Kilpauk, details regarding sale of properties at Kodaikanal and information related to bank accounts maintained by the dioceses and synods.

Failing to respond after both the extensions, the Church had again asked for time till February 20, this month.

In 2009, the Church of South India came under scrutiny by the Central Crime Branch of the Chennai police after a swindling racket involving even a former general secretary was uncovered.

About Rs 7.5 crore meant for tsunami relief and rehabilitation works were siphoned off by the then general secretary Pauline Sathyamurthy and her close associates including her family. The fraud was detected in September the same year after a separate committee was appointed by the church governing body.

The synod of the CSI took action when the US-based Episcopal Relief Development fund complained of apparent fraudulent actions it came across in a 2008 audit.