Gospel for Asia in Canadian Court Hearing: Once You Find Out the Truth About Your Donation, Stop Giving If You Don’t Like It

Today, a Canadian court held a hearing to decide whether or not a lawsuit would be certified as a class action suit. Attorney Paul Guy represented plaintiff Greg Zentner in the effort to certify the case as a class action suit representing all donors to Gospel for Asia – Canada.

Attorney Jeffrey Leon represented GFA – Canada and argued that the suit should not be certified as a class action suit. Leon also made an argument that donors have no standing to sue since they suffer no loss when they donate, even to a fraudulent organization. Leon told Justice Cavanaugh that Canadian authorities could weigh in and prosecute fraud if it exists. However, individual donors don’t have a loss to sue over, according to Leon.

It was curious to me that Leon sought to cast doubt on the identity of GFA in India during the recent raids on Believers’ Church. Even though the funds sent to Believers’ Church came from GFA, he sought to distance K.P. Yohannan’s organization in India from GFA-Canada. Overall, it appears to be a large part GFA-Canada’s defense to pretend there is no connection between GFA-Canada, GFA-World, Believers’ Church and the various trusts in India.

Yohannan’s organizations are controlled by him and his family. Various national groups send their money to Believers’ Church in India (or at least did when Believers’ Church was allowed to accept those funds). Money was donated in Canada with the intention of sending it to India for use by Believers’ Church. If donors checked one box for use of their funds (e.g., poor people), but those funds went for building for profit hospitals and schools or a purpose other than checked by the donor, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the charity misled the donor.

Read the briefs (“facta” in Canada) associated with the case thus far.

Factum for Greg Zentner (plaintiff)

Respondents Factum Pat Emerick and GFA World

Factum of the  United States Defendants, Gospel for Asia, Kadappiliaril Punnose Yohannan, Daniel Punnose, and David Carroll

Reply Factum of Greg Zentner

Observations

Jeffrey Leon said K.P. Yohannan doesn’t have control over the GFA/Believers Church organizations. Historically, Yohannan has been in control, but I can see claiming he isn’t or hasn’t been in charge is an ongoing part of GFA’s defense. However, I have shown in numerous blog posts that Yohannan is involved in nearly all of the GFA organizations around the world. He has said in the past he doesn’t sit on the boards in India; however, I showed that he does (or at least did in 2015).

It is stunning that GFA’s lawyers cast doubt on the charities raided by India authorities. As a legal strategy, one can claim that hearsay can’t be admitted, but this is deceptive. Of course, the Indian government raided Believers’ Church, the same church that is run by K.P. Yohannan and takes funds from GFA-Canada and GFA affiliated organizations around the world. What do all of the donations go for? They are sent to India. Since 2017, those funds have been received illegally. Who knew about that? Who approved it? Who used those funds despite them being accepted from Canada against Indian law? Is anybody really going to try to make a case that K.P. Yohannan didn’t authorize all of those actions?

GFA’s case summed up by attorney Jeffrey Leon is this: If you don’t like how we used your donations, then don’t give us any more money. And if you want to claim we used it fraudulently, then tell it to the regulatory agencies. Don’t sue us for fraud.

What a smug, dismissive line of thinking. How are donors supposed to know what they are donating to if GFA doesn’t tell them? When donors find out that funds are used for purposes other than specified, it is too late.

 

Gospel for Asia Invades Africa

On April 13, Gospel for Asia — now called GFA World — published a news release with this title:

Gospel for Asia — Now GFA World — Launches its First-Ever Mission in Africa

Yohannan and company have launched a business in Rwanda and plan more in other African nations:

Our work in Africa begins with GFA World Child Sponsorship in the slums of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, one of the most densely populated African nations. This will be the first of many projects, each with the same vision we started with, to meet tangible needs of precious people and show God’s love to those who need it most.

With over 40 years of experience, GFA is equipped to meet the expanding needs of Africa. We’ll soon start training national missionaries, clean water projects, medical ministry, education for the underprivileged, women’s empowerment, and community development projects. Our aim is to help empower the poor to break the cycle of poverty and show God’s love.

And Rwanda is just the beginning of an exciting new missions frontier. We plan to expand ministry to six other nations in Africa during the next few years.

And why not? In 2015, GFA lost their membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Yohannan’s organization settled a U.S. class action fraud lawsuit for $37-million in 2019. In 2020, GFA became the defendant in a fraud lawsuit brought in Canada. Also in 2020, this time in India, GFA affiliated organizations (including Yohannan’s homes)  were raided as a part of a government investigation into how the organization used their foreign contributions. This investigation is ongoing and Yohannan is being sought for questioning by the Indian government. No wonder Yohannan and GFA World want to get out of North America and Asia and on to a new continent.

In 2017, the Indian government removed GFA’s charity status and ability to receive foreign contributions. However, GFA never told donors about the government action and continued to send funds to shadow organizations in India. With the recent government raids and investigation, GFA’s status in India may be in doubt.

With problems in North America and Asia, it appears that Africa is Yohannan’s next act.

News Reports: India’s Tax Authorities Take Control of Gospel for Asia’s Cheruvally Estate in Alleged Money Laundering Case

According to news reports out of India this morning, government Income Tax Department has confiscated the Cheruvally Estate and another 2,000 acres of land  belonging to Believers’ Church in the state of Kerala. This action, according to reports, is tied to the governments ongoing investigation of a money laudering scheme involving allegedly $821-million in foreign donations. Believers’ Church is run by K.P. Yohannan who is the founder and CEO of Gospel for Asia, headquartered in Wills Point, TX.

In November 2020, the Income Tax Department raided Believers’ Church and Yohannan’s homes and due to suspicion of a money laundering operation. According to this recent report, Yohannan was supposed to return to India for questioning in December 2020 but failed to do so. According to this report, he is at the Wills Point headquarters.

The allegations are similar to those at issue in the RICO lawsuit settled in 2019 with GFA. In that case Garland and Phyliss Murphy accused the mission giant of failing to spend donations as promised and diverting money to other projects in India. The $37-million settlement was followed by a similar suit in Canada which is ongoing.

See also this report for a pretty good summary of Gospel for Asia and K.P. Yohannan’s legal troubles.

 

Indian Government Alleges K.P. Yohannan and Believers Church Misused Church Funds

The raids on Believers Church properties in India continued Friday with the Indian government seizing nearly a million dollars in currency and alleging fraud and misuse of funds.

The media in India are reporting the church as a scam:

Trusts formed under Believers Church have received Rs 6000 cr ($810,679,320 usd) from abroad within the last 5 years. As per the law, the foreign fund received for charity must be used only for that purpose and the details must be informed to the government…Irregularities were also found in the accounts produced, reported the IT department.

For copyright reasons, I can’t reproduce them, but in this Mayalayam report, photos of the seized cash are provided.

Although unsourced, this report appears to quote someone from the Believers Church denying that the funds seized in a priest’s car belonged to the church or was any kind of “black money.”

The tax authority released this statement:

The Income Tax Department has carried out search and seizure operations on 05.11.2020 in the case of a well-known self-styled evangelist of Thiruvalla in Kerala and his group of various trusts that enjoy exemption under the Income-tax Act, 1961 as charitable/religious trusts. The group operates places of worship, a number of schools and colleges across the country, a medical college and a hospital in Kerala. The action covered 66 premises located in Kerala, Tamilnadu, West Bengal, Karnataka, Chandigarh, Punjab and Telengana.

The searches were carried out as credible information was received that the group has received donations from foreign countries ostensibly for helping the poor and the destitute and for evangelical purposes, but was actually siphoning out such tax-exempted funds in cash to engage in unaccounted cash transactions for personal and other illegal expenses in real estate transactions.

The group operates about 30 trusts, registered across the country, and most of them exist only on paper and have been found to be used for routing the unaccounted funds and for accommodation transactions.

It has been found that the modus operandi of the group is to systematically inflate expenses with the help of other parties, who would return the inflated amount in cash through domestic hawala channels to the functionaries of the group. Some of these other parties were also covered in the search action. During the search action, evidences have been found of systematic inflation of expenses in purchase of consumables, construction expenses, real estate development expenses, payment of salary, etc.

The search has led to unearthing of a number of real estate transactions involving unaccounted cash payments. Related documents such as sale agreements, etc have been seized. The group has also inflated the price in real estate transactions to show as if the money received in donations is being spent on the activities of the trusts. The evidence found so far indicate that the siphoning of funds in cash may be running into hundreds of crores of rupees.

Unexplained cash of approximately Rs. 6 crore has also been found during the search, including Rs 3.85 crore in a place of worship in Delhi.

Substantial electronic computing and data storage has been found, which is being examined. Further investigations are going on.

See my post from earlier today.

Government Raids Believers Church & K.P. Yohannan in India Over Foreign Contributions

In other news…

According to reports out of India, the government raided the headquarters of Believers’ Church and K.P. Yohannan in Thiruvalla, Kerala.

The raid was carried out by the Income Tax division and occurred at both Yohannan’s office and residence. Specifically, Believers Church allegedly has continued to received foreign contributions after the government revoked their registration to do so. I have reported on that since I learned the registration was revoked.

According to this Malayalam report translated with Google translate, raids took place in other Believers Church locations around India. Authorities are looking for evidence that Believers Church continued to accept foreign donations in violation of the law.

There can be no question that Yohannan and Gospel for Asia have continued to solicit donations for India after their registration was revoked. GFA has never informed donors that the registration in India was revoked which prohibits foreign funds entering to GFA and Believers Church in India.

According to one source close to the church, a priest was discovered with a large sum of cash in his car as a result of this raid. The raid just happened this morning and this is a developing story.

According to this report, phones and other materials have been seized in a massive raid.

Gospel for Asia and Believers Church lost their charity registration to take in foreign contributions in 2017. Since then I have been asking the U.S. charity how they are getting American donations to India. I never get a response. In fact, there are numerous NGOs in India which do nothing but accept funds from the U.S. and funnel them to Believers Church and Yohannan’s interests. GFA has never informed donors outside of India that their donations cannot legally go to India. Despite these restrictions, Yohannan and GFA have continued to solicit donations for Indian causes.

Blog Theme: Gospel for Asia – Interview with J.D. Smith

My first post about Gospel for Asia was published April 27, 2015. Here is what I wrote to introduce the organization:

GFA LOGOGospel for Asia is a large missionary organization which supports direct evangelism, child sponsorships, Bible colleges, education, disaster relief and several other ministries. Their assets are substantial but, at their request, I am not going to address how much money they take in.* The 990s are not available on Guidestar and so it is very difficult to find out specific information about the financial situation.

GFA describes itself as a missionary organization and a church. What GFA calls The Believer’s Church is based in Wills Point, TX and apparently consists of the various churches planted around the world. According to the church website, the church has “over 2.4 million members scattered throughout 14 nations.”

Actually, Believers’ Church is based in India and is also headed up by Metropolitan K.P. Yohannan – GFA’s founder and CEO – who also goes by Moran Mor Athanasius Yohan Metropolitan. If we were buddies, I would just call him “Yo.”

My interest in GFA was triggered by a reader, Mr. Jesperson, who was once a donor. Then Bruce Morrison came along who is a Canadian pastor and a key player in confronting the discrepancies in what GFA said on paper in Canada and what they reported in India. Auditor Jason Watkins provided his expertise to help make clear the discrepancies in U.S. financial statements and other records we secured. I have talked to numerous former American and Indian staffers who have helped to paint a picture of GFA. Since 2015, I have written hundreds of posts on GFA’s finances and practices in the U.S. and around the world.

In early October 2015, Gospel for Asia was evicted from membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. GFA was a charter member and it was a rare move for the ECFA. To get a description of the reasons for the removal, you can read the ECFA preliminary report given to me by former GFA board member Gayle Erwin.

In 2017, the nation of India revoked GFA and Believers’ Church registration as a charity eligible to receive foreign donations. GFA still solicits money for use in India and still sends funds there to NGOs that have no purpose other than to funnel money to Believers’ Church.

In 2019, GFA settled a class action RICO lawsuit and agreed to pay $37-million to donors. The Canadian branch is currently being sued by a donors in Nova Scotia.

Much of my writing on GFA has related to financial practices. However, there is a human side to the story. This is what got me started and this is what former staffer J.D. Smith focuses on in today’s interview. If you are interested in group dynamics and how leaders hold members with controlling tactics, you will want to hear J.D. speak.

To watch all interviews in this “15 Years of Blogging” series, click here.

To read all posts relating to Gospel for Asia, click here.

To read more about controlling groups and Steven Hassan’s work mentioned by J.D., go to freedomofmind.com.

Gospel for Asia Canada Seeks Protection from Creditors Amid Donor Lawsuit

The Canadian iteration of Gospel for Asia has filed for creditor protection at the same time it is being sued in multi-million dollar action by donors who claim the charity did not use funds as donors intended. The action appears to be a stalling tactic since the charity doesn’t have any significant creditors except the possibility of paying back donations that didn’t go where donors thought they would go.

Read the affadavit filed by GFA’s Pat Emerick here

Read the Court order on creditor protection here. 

The order prohibits GFA from disbursing any funds without permission of the court and sets up Price Waterhouse as GFA’s overseer. GFA has asked the court to stay this prohibition but the court has yet to rule on that request.

Of course, the donors don’t want GFA to be able to send money out of the country until GFA can satisfy donors and the authorities that the funds are being used as promised. They favor the hold on sending funds out of the country. I would like to add that funds cannot be sent to Gospel for Asia in India or Ayana Charitable Trust or Believers’ Church or at least two other NGOs because the Indian government removed their ability to accept foreign funds. I hope this court action explores where the funds are actually going and how they get from shell NGOs with no actual structure to the people in need.

This is a missing link that no one at GFA has ever spoken about. No one has ever said how funds get from the U.S. to needy people in India since the organizations with a structure to distribute them can’t accept them. I understand the Believers’ Church has set up shell NGOs but this seems like it could be a stealthy and perhaps illegal way to funnel foreign funds to organizations which the Indian government has prohibited from getting them.

 

Vote in Poll: Should Gospel for Asia Disclose Financial Statements?

Today on Twitter I posted a poll in response to Gospel for Asia’s repetitive requests for donations. I simply asked:

If you have a Twitter account, I invite you to take part in the poll.

GFA constantly spins their work and solicits funds for India but has never disclosed to donors that their charity registration has been revoked in India. They have not released an audited financial statement since 2013. They promised to seek membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability after they were kicked out in 2015 but have not done so.

Here Are the Details of the Canadian Lawsuit Against Gospel for Asia

Today I received the “Notice of Action” brief filed Tuesday against Gospel for Asia by plaintiff Greg Zentner of Nova Scotia, Canada. The class action suit alleges GFA breached their fiduciary duty to donors, defrauded donors, made negligent misstatements to donors, and “civilly conspired to misrepresent the nature of the donations collected from the class and the use to which they would be put.”

The plaintiff, on behalf of GFA donors in Canada, seeks financial damages in the following ways with interest:

return of $20,000,000.00 in funds misdirected to GFA USA;

damages for the defendant’s unlawful actions for the misuse of donor funds in excess of $100,000,000.00, or such other sum as this Honourable Court may find appropriate;

punitive damages of $50,000,000 or such other sum as this Honourable Court may find appropriate;

The overview of the suit claims:

Thousands of well-intentioned Canadians were duped into collectively donating tens of millions of dollars to an international fundraising syndicate operating in Canada known by a variety of names including as Gospel for Asia, Gospel for Asia Canada, GFA, and, later, as GFA World. The donors were convinced by the representations of the Defendants that 100% of donations designated for use in the field would be used in the field, and that their donations would be used for specific charitable purposes to help the poorest of the poor in India. Instead, the funds were converted by the Defendants for their own use, including for the construction of a luxurious compound and personal residence in Texas, USA. In this action, the Canadian donors seek to recover these donations that were collected through fraud or misrepresentation.

Read the entire lawsuit here

In Murphy v. GFA, GFA said that Canada was the source of funds for the $20-million which capped off the compound building project. GFA leaders lied to their staff, followers, and accountant by first saying that an anonymous donor sent the money. Then they covered that story by saying an Indian entity of Believers’ Church gave the money to them. Then during the court proceedings, a GFA lawyer said the funds came from Canada.  To the ECFA, GFA said the funds were restricted funds that they used to pay for the headquarters’ construction and then paid back. Sorting out this convoluted story will be part of this lawsuit since plaintiff Zentner wants the $20-million returned to Canadian donors.

One of the key facts of the case relates to the absence of Canada as a source of donations to GFA/Believers’ Church in Indian charity reports for an eight year period from 2007-2014. In Canadian charity reports, over $94-million was donated to GFA to go to India during that time period, but during the same period, Indian public documents show no money coming from Canada. GFA spokesman Johnnie Moore evaded that question in a recent CBC interview, but GFA won’t be able to do so in court.

Class Action Suit Filed in Canada Against Gospel for Asia

This morning Nova Scotia pastor Bruce Morrison wrote to say that an elder in his church has filed a class action fraud lawsuit against Gospel for Asia. The CBC has a news item about it in print and on radio.

The plaintiff is Greg Zentner and he alleges that $100-million in donations didn’t end up where the donors wanted it to go. Marc Stanley is one of lawyers involved. He was the lead council in the case that was settled for $37-million in the U.S.

GFA is on the defensive against an earlier CBC broadcast documentary which featured an interview with GFA spokesman Johnnie Moore. Moore dodged questions posed by the CBC and failed to account for discrepancies in documents filed in Canada and India.