Loan scam: Priest remanded to 14-day custody

Father Peeliyanikkal has been remanded until July 4

By Jose Kavi

New Delhi: A court in Kerala on June 20 remanded a Catholic priest for 14 days for allegedly forging documents to avail farm loans from various banks.

Father Thomas Peeliyanikkal, executive director of Kuttanad Vikasana Samithy (KVS, Kuttanad development committee), was arrested the previous evening after he ignored summons for questioning from the investigation team of the police Crime Branch, citing health reasons.

The court of the Ramankari Judicial First Class Magistrate remanded the 72-year-old priest of the Changanacherry archdiocese until July 4, TV channels in Kerala reported.

Ramankari is a town in the Kuttanad region, well known for its vast paddy fields and geographical peculiarities, and some 70 km southeast of Kochi, Kerala’s commercial capital.

The Kerala police allege that Father Peeliyanikkal drafted fake documents and received millions of rupees illegally as agricultural loan.

The priest is among four people accused in the scam.

The others are Rojo Joseph, a lawyer practicing in Ramankari court, his wife, and KVS staff member Thresyamma. They are absconding

The crime branch investigation team arrested Father Peeliyanikkal from the KVS office.

The police have registered 12 cases in connection with the scam. The priest had obtained anticipatory bail on many of them.

When the case was considered on June 20, his lawyer argued that he had obtained bail from the Kerala High Court. However, the prosecution observed the accused did not get bail for certain cases.

Father Peeliyanikkal’s lawyer insisted that his client has no direct involvement in the scam. He had only recommended banks to provide loan only as the KVS director. However, the court did not accept the arguments.

The KVS website claims it is a voluntary development organization promoted by the Changanacherry archdiocese for Kuttanad, a region covering Alappuzha and Kottayam districts of Kerala.

However, the archdiocese says the organization is independent and that the archdiocese has no direct control over it. “The archdiocese has given one of its priests to KVS to be its director,” archdiocesan spokesperson Joji Chirayil told Matters India on June 20.

Chirayil, a lawyer and one of the few lay diocesan spokespersons in India, also said his archdiocese would let the law take its natural course. “We would cooperate with the law enforcing agencies,” he added.

Father Peeliyanikkal has formed some 1,500 self-help groups of farmers in the Kuttanad region.

However, it has now come to light that the organization had received agricultural loans from banks in Alappuzha with the support of alleged fake documents.

The accused did the forgery and took loans from the banks in the names of the self-help group members without their consent. Many members came to know about the loans only after the banks sent them notices to attach their agricultural land.

Until the scam broke, the organization was hailed for bringing sustainable development to all Kuttanad farmers, irrespective of their religion, and making them self-reliant.

The organization, registered in 1993, has striven to make the Kuttanad farmers self-reliant focusing village self-rule as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi. It focused on the entire rural communities of Kuttanad.

Its beneficiaries are women, farmers, farm laborers, inland fish workers, youth and children. Women are the center of all its programs as it believes them to be key agents and animating and empowering them would help them become multipliers of community development initiatives, the website claims.

The Kuttanad region has the lowest altitude in India, and is one of the few places in the world where farming is carried around 1.2 to 3.0 meters below sea level. Kuttanad is the major rice producer in Kerala. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has declared the Kuttanad farming as a globally important agricultural heritage system.

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5 thoughts on “Loan scam: Priest remanded to 14-day custody

  1. Dear k.c. Thomas, this is a home work for the archdiocese…. I gave… Let them find out the culprit… The divorce rate in this nazarani archdiocese is increasing ever since its inception. The former archbishops protected the families, the present ones look only on radical and less useful topics.. It’s own priests are helping for anti catholic culture. Culture of family is almost lost in A.diocese. Symptoms like Old age marriage (32 for boys and 28 for girls and above is common now) alcoholism, immature motherhood concepts prevalent,,immature men flock (developed by the present catechism system, most of them are 32 year old kids or boys….), role conflicts in the families are promoted by this diocesan system… Many boys of the diocese know Syriac prayers but don’t know how to manage the family issues….

  2. if Thankappan vaidhyar knows the truth about that mutual consent divorce, why the name of the priest is not given. If it is fake or wrong we should not write in the blog. Let us not malign anyone without knowing truth

  3. Rev fr.thomas peeliiyanikkal was radical social activist of the said area, accepted by people irrespective of caste and creed. In Past decards people admired and glorified him as redeemer of kuttanad. The politicians too had faith on him… Govt considered his views as people’s voice. Though he was a diocesan priest, I think there was no monitoring system to promote him and protect him as with some European religious congregations( in the diocese canonists are not less, advocates are not less, I have heard an advocate priest of the diocese is busy in involving in mutual divorce petition get it signed by both parties In conflict, usually they do it soon as they are in conflict and the priest ask of it….. He receives Rs:16000/- from both parties together…he reaches in the spot by car. with one or two hours of intervention calling mole mone he make them to sign for mutual agreement, which is not usually proposed even by secular judges or bad money crazy advocates in matter of distroying a family bond easily, in fact it is a big crime according to the Christian teaching…) all these malice usual in social sector… It is very sad to hear his archdiocese washed the hand when he is in trouble. It sounds as bishops appoint some people on the basis of someone’s demand… When they are caught diocese ask now you enjoy…it is not ecclesial in nature…
    No priest knows everything about everything… Priests know something about everything….. On going training and yearly or quarterly audit is there in the diocese then why such things happened… The spokesperson also should have explained the weak points of the archdiocese too. Many hard-working priests usually land up this way and the jeolosy priest laugh at its fall. He is old age priest, difficult understand law to get it done some times morally. Many good priests are sad after contributing a lot… praying for you dear fr.thomas…

  4. Good work done with bad intentions is harmful to the society at large. Other priests and nuns who are running NGOs and doing social work need to learn lessons. Times have changed. Religious garb doesn’t hide wrong doings for long.

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