Father Thomas Peelianickal, who is an accused in connection with an agricultural loan scam in Kuttanad in Kerala, was asked to step down from his priestly duties by the Changanassery diocese on Wednesday.
The decision to suspend the former executive director of the Kuttanad Vikasana Samithi(KVS) office in Alappuzha was taken by the diocese lead by the Changanassery Bishop Mar Joseph Perumthottam as the priest was facing investigation in connection with the scam.
Father Thomas, who was earlier arrested on June 19 in connection with the scam, was later let out on bail.
He is accused in six cases of loan fraud,out of which Kerala High Court had earlier granted him anticipatory bail in two cases.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Vijayakumaran Nair, who led the District Crime Branch to arrest him, was reported to have told the Times of India (TOI) that 14 cases have been registered related to agriculture loan fraud.
“As per the evidence we collected,Peelianickal is now accused in only six cases. The investigation is progressing and Peelianickal may become accused in more cases in coming days,” the investigation team said.
The scam gained limelight after Shaji, a native of Kavalam, disclosed that a joint liability group of farmers under Kuttanad Vikasana Samithy took Rs 5 lakh loan from Canara Bank in his name, when he was not a member of that group. After this, he received a loan recovery notice from the bank.
As per his complaint, the loan was taken by Karshaka Mithra Nel Karshka Joint Liability Group formed under KVS. However, the first case registered against Peelanickal was based on a complaint filed by a woman member of Mithrakari Nel Karshaka Samithi.
Peelianickal had allegedly acquired loans by forming self-help groups under various names and forged documents for availing the loans from different banks in Alappuzha.
The crime branch discovered that loans were availed by forging the signatures of farmers cultivated paddy at Kuttanad.