The Kochi Police on Monday registered a case against Syro-Malabar Church Cardinal George Alencherry and three others in connection with an alleged illegal land deal in an Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, PTI reported. The FIR was registered almost a week after the Kerala High Court ordered the police to do so based on a complaint filed by Chertala resident Shine Varghese.

The police reportedly filed the case only after a section of the Syro-Malabar Church congregation threatened to move the court again. Alencherry is the head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church based in Kerala. He has been under pressure to resign after allegations that church land had been sold below market value in a deal that he had approved.

The cardinal, who is the primary accused in the case, and priests Joshy Puthuva and Sebastian Vadakkumpadan, and middleman Saju Varghese have been accused of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and cheating in sale of over three acres of land, worth crores of rupees, belonging to the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese.

Alencherry, 72, was ordained as a Cardinal, a priest of the highest rank in the Roman Catholic Church, by Pope Benedict XVI in February 2012. He is one of only five Cardinals in India.

The deal

The deal includes the sale of three acres of land in Kochi by the Ernakulam archdiocese in 2016 to repay a Rs 60-crore bank loan it had taken to build a medical college. The agent appointed by the church to carry out the deal had estimated the value of the land at Rs 27.30 crore, but the church has so far received only Rs 9.13 crore of that amount.

However, priests and other people critical of the action claim that the plot was actually worth at least Rs 80 crore.