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 I have reported on that since I learned the registration was revoked.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no question that Yohannan and Gospel for Asia have continued to solicit donations for India after their registration was revoked. GFA has never informed donors that the registration in India was revoked which prohibits foreign funds entering to GFA and Believers Church in India.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

I Don’t Believe Most of What Johnnie Moore Said in His CBC Interview About Gospel for Asia

In his interview with CBC reporter Angela MacIvor, Gospel for Asia spokesman Johnnie Moore justified the diversion of funds to Believers’ Church Medical College Hospital by saying there are no other hospitals in the area for “many miles.” This and nearly everything else Moore said in his interview requires scrutiny. I started that activity last week and this week, I turn my attention to the rest of the interview.

In this interview, MacIvor asked Moore why some of the funds donors gave for poor people went to build a state of the art hospital in Kerala (first reported here). In response, Moore said:

It was all happening. It was all happening. They were building hospitals, the hospital that you are referencing, I’ve been to it. I’ve walked around it. I’ve sat down with people being cared for in the hospital. I’ve sat with the director of the hospital. I’ve seen the gigantic statue of Jesus in the center of the hospital, and by the way, that hospital is the only hospital of its kind within a very long distance. I mean people come from all over that part of India to get great health care for themselves. Not only that, by the way, you know they’re training doctors and nurses to serve other people all across the country. You know, this is an organization that has always talked about providing healthcare and educating people and so they’re doing it, they’re doing it. And while they’re doing it, they’ve also provided goats and wells and medicine and literacy training.

There are problems here.

Moore said: “that hospital is the only hospital of its kind within a very long distance.”

Not true. There are at several other comparable hospitals within 30 miles of Believers’ Church Medical College Hospital. One, the Tiruvalla Medical Mission Hospital is a modern state of the art facility with a location only 3.4 km away (about a 9 minute drive) (see the image below).

St. Ritas Hospital is 10 minutes away. St. Thomas Hospital is about 22 minutes away. Each has a nursing school and other medical training. There are numerous specialty clinics in the vicinity as well (heart, dental, etc.). Since Moore says he has been there, it seems like he should know that.

Moore added: “Not only that, by the way, you know they’re training doctors and nurses to serve other people all across the country.”

I am sure that the school does train doctors and nurses but Moore makes it seem as though there is a shortage of medical training in India. That is not true. According to this list, there are three other medical colleges in the same district (Pathanamthitta) of the state of Kerala as Yohannan’s. About 1.2-million people live in the district which covers just over 9 square miles. In the state of Kerala (the size of New Hampshire and Connecticut combined), there are 36 medical colleges with 2 more planned.

Moore: “I mean people come from all over that part of India to get great health care for themselves.”

While that may be true, they have to pay for it. Moore said there isn’t another hospital of its kind in the area, but the Believers’ Church hospital found one about 30 minutes away to send a poor patient to according to the Deccan Chronicle report.

A patient  suffering from breathing difficulty,  who was shifted from a private hospital at Thiruvalla to the MCH [Government Medical College Hospital] here on Wednesday,  had to wait in the ambulance  for over four hours due to the lack of a spare ventilator in the MCH.  The doctors at the private hospital had told the relatives of the patient that medical colleges will have ventilator facility all the time. The plight suffered  by the   patient,  N.K. Saaidharan Pillai, 58, of Pandalam,  was explained to DC  by his daughter Salini on Friday.

Pillai, who had breathing difficulty due to a neurological deficit, was undergoing treatment at the Believers Church hospital at Thiruvalla. However, he was shifted to the Kottayam medical college hospital  on Wednesday as the family could not afford the huge expenses. Salini  said that the doctor who administered treatment to her father at the Thiruvalla hospital told her  that the MCH will have a full- time ventilator facility.   “He told us that there was no need to ring up the MCH about arranging a ventilator,”  she said.

This man couldn’t afford the care at Believers’ Church. Despite the millions given by donors to help poor people in India, this man could not get medical care at a facility that those foreign donations helped build. Does this look like the picture Johnnie Moore was painting?

The Deccan Chronicle report gives a hint that this patient wasn’t the only one dumped on the government hospital. The article concludes:

Meanwhile Winnie Elizabeth Johnson, PRO of the Believers Church hospital told DC that while the hospital authorities used to call them previously, since the MCH authorities used to come up with excuses against assurance regarding the ventilator facility citing increase in patient arrivals, they had stopped calling them anymore.

Apparently, Believers’ Church had been shipping so many patients to the MCH that MCH was coming up with reasons not to take them. Now Believers’ Church Hospital just dumps them. For some reason, she thought that was okay to admit.

Moore concluded: “this is an organization that has always talked about providing healthcare and educating people and so they’re doing it…”

This is a big part of the dispute between donors and GFA. In fact, GFA did not talk about building a hospital and that is the problem. Donors never heard about a hospital and when I first started covering GFA, it was scandalous that such a huge amount of money in fiscal year 2014 (over $14-million) of foreign donations went to the construction and maintenance of the hospital. There were no appeals for funds to build a hospital. It just appeared.

So no, GFA didn’t talk about building a hospital and ask for funds to do it. If Johnnie Moore can find an appeal and document a U.S. campaign in 2012-2014 to build the Believers’ Church Medical College Hospital, I would like to see it.

Apparently, former GFA COO David Carroll didn’t know about it either because he sent a nervous email to K.P. Yohannan after Bruce Morrison and I started asking questions about the Indian public documents (FC-6 Reports). Moore said in the interview that GFA contested the accuracy of those documents. However, David Carroll, GFA’s COO at the time, did not contest them. Here is what he said to K.P. Yohannan in early 2015 in an email reveal during the RICO court case:

Sir, I need to share with you where I am over this situation. I will try to summarize for brevity sake. We have a saying in our country: The numbers don’t lie. The published FC-6 reports show westerners that we have either sent money to the field raised for National Ministries and Bridge of Hope to fund the hospital and the corpus fund, or our FC-6 filings are filed wrong.

Either way, this is a huge problem. It appears to those reading these that we might have been dishonest to the donors (fraud), or been dishonest to the Indian government, (a PR nightmare at least). Sister Siny’s report below will, in my opinion, do little to satisfy those who are printing out and analyzing our FC-6 reports. I am sorry for not expressing more confidence than this. I think we may have used money raised for National Ministries and Bridge of Hope for the hospital.

I think that India feels that we raise money and send it. I think that India feels that we raised money and sent it to them and they can legally use it any way they deem fit. I hope that I am wrong, but I am doubtful. I also don’t think that it is an intentional wrong, but if I am correct, it is a huge wrong. We’ve spoken at hundreds of churches with tears asking for the National Ministries and Bridge of Hope support, and the FC-6 that is public says that we sent much of that money for the hospital and the reserve corpus funds.”

Yes, the money went “to the field” but David Carroll here in the privacy of this email is lamenting that Believers’ Church — which is run by K.P. Yohannan — spent funds meant for ministry to poor people on the hospital and to stock a reserve fund.

An Indian tax court document confirmed the transfer of funds in December 2014. According to the court filing:

…the assessee [Believers’ Church] advanced funds to BCMET [a trust to build the hospital] for construction of hospital building. BCMET is also a registered trust u/s 12AA of the Act. The ld.representative further submitted that Carmel Education Trust also a registered charitable trust u/s 12A of the Act was given funds by the assessee to carry out their charitable activities.

That same court opined that Believers’ Church and GFA used funds inappropriately:

 It is not in dispute that substantial income of the assessee trust was not used by both the assessees for the purposes for which they were formed.

I don’t know if Angela MacIvor will get another chance to interview Mr. Moore. I hope so. I also hope U.S. media will follow up on the CBC documentary and bring more light to GFA.

 

 

 

Gospel for Asia Offers Secret Meeting to Selected Donors

Gospel for Asia is apparently going to expand operations. In a solicitation to selected donors, GFA is offering to bring them in to hear about (and no doubt financially support) some new work. Here it is:

GFA is marketing into a storm of bad publicity including a recent CBC radio documentary which raises the issue of $94-million listed in Canada as having gone to India but without any record of it showing up in India.

The secrecy is par for GFA’s course. They have not issued an audited financial statement since 2013 and refuse to disclose how donations to India are getting into the country. GFA and Believers’ Church lost their charity registration there in 2017, but GFA in the U.S. has never informed donors about that and keeps raising money. I would like to see the CBC’s Angela MacIvor ask Johnnie Moore about that.

Johnnie Moore’s Gospel for Asia Evasive Maneuvers

Yesterday, I posted a link to a CBC radio documentary about Gospel for Asia’s use of Canadian funds. In this program by Angela MacIvor, PR guru Johnnie Moore was interviewed and made some dubious claims. I take one of them up today. I’ll examine the others in future posts.

During the interview with Moore, MacIvor asked

Can you explain how it’s possible in a period between 2007-2014, GFA reported to the Canadian Revenue Agency that nearly $94-million left Canada and went to India during that time period but GFA reported to the Indian government that zero dollars went to India?

Moore gave a truly extraordinary answer:

I contest that those statistics are factual. The organization has always contested that that is a factual characterization of that and not to mention the organization doesn’t exclusively operate in India. They operate, their partner, they operate in 20 other countries around the world as well.

This issue was one of the earliest matters I researched regarding GFA. In June 2015, I asked former GFA COO David Carroll why funds listed in Canada as going to India didn’t show up as arriving from Canada in Indian documents. He told me:

The Canadian funds were combined with U.S. funds by our auditor in India for various accounting reasons. There is no requirement that they be reported separately.

However, in the Indian reports, funds were listed as originating from other nations, such as Australia, Germany and the UK. According to Indian regulations and contrary to Carroll’s claim, the national source of the funds has to be listed. As noted by MacIvor, for an 8 year period, it appeared Canada had not sent funds when in fact, almost $94-million had been donated specifically for India.

I want to make it clear that Moore’s mention of the other nations where GFA works is irrelevant. The Canadian branch of GFA specifically said in government reports (see this post for images of those reports) the money was being sent to India. This information must be reported accurately. If GFA Canada wanted to send it somewhere else, then some other nation would have been listed. Moore’s statement about other nations was a distraction.

In response to what appeared to be gaslighting from Moore, MacIvor followed up by asked if GFA wants the public to ignore those public reports. Moore’s answer was stunning:

I am not saying you shouldn’t look at those. People ought to have the humility to ask themselves a more important question which is: What is it that I might not know about this? What is the information that I might not have? Or the information that might not be available in the public domain? And I think there are vast gaps between the two pieces of information.

Humility? It is the height of arrogance for Johnnie Moore to accuse donors, former staff of GFA, and members of the public of lacking humility. Since 2015, hundreds of people have been asking GFA for answers to questions about their financial practices only to be met with silence or evasion. When I asked these exact questions (what don’t I know? what can make this make sense?), all I got was silence and name-calling. When a federal judge wanted answers to questions like this, all he got was stone-walling from GFA. I wish the reporter would have asked Johnnie Moore about the sanctions Judge Timothy Brooks imposed on GFA for failure to respond to questions about financial information during the fraud lawsuit brought by  Garland and Phyllis Murphy.

Then Moore dodged the last question posed by MacIvor when she rightfully asked for the information we mere mortals don’t have. Moore’s reply?

Yeah, first of all, that’s a question for the Believers Eastern Church in India and around the world. That’s a question that needs to be asked of them.

How convenient. K.P. Yohannan isn’t available, so they bring in Moore from D.C. to speak for Yohannan on GFA matters, but when Moore turns the attention to Believers’ Church, all of sudden he can’t speak for Yohannan.

Moore got away without answering the questions. So Moore chides the public for failure to understand something he refuses to disclose. The appeal to Believers Church is a disgusting dodge. Not only is Yohannan the head of the church, but GFA in Canada and the U.S. is responsible for how donor funds are spent. GFA needs to know why the funds they sent to India didn’t show up in records there. It is obvious GFA knows or else they would just as concerned about it (where is our money?).

There are two other issues I want to take up from this interview. First, what does it mean that all the funds given to “the field” went to the field? Second, what about those hospitals in India? Moore was asked about that and misrepresented the situation. More to come in future posts…

Gospel for Asia and Compliance with ECFA’s Standards: The 2015 Letter, Part 8

In CEO and founder K.P. Yohannan’s recent “exclusive personal response” to the fraud lawsuit settlement involving Gospel for Asia, Yohannan traces GFA’s problems to a 2015 “confidential letter from a financial standards association we were part of, and of which we were a charter member.” That letter was from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and outlined 17 potential violations of ECFA financial standards. In October 2015, ECFA evicted GFA from membership. To help donors understand the nature of the concerns ECFA had about GFA, I am posting the concerns one at a time with commentary. You can read all of the posts by clicking this link.

Read the entire ECFA letter on GFA’s compliance issues here.

From that letter, here is the eighth compliance issue:

8. Use of funds restricted for the field for other purposes.

On June 3, ECFA discussed GFA’s claim that 100 percent of field funds are sent and used in the field. GFA staff confirmed that this was accurate. On August 24, ECFA was informed that GFA India made a gift to GFA of $19,778,613 in 2013 to complete GFA’s new office. On August 27, GFA’s staff confirmed that the funds relating to this donation were originally received by GFA as gifts restricted for the field and GFA transferred to field partners to fulfill donor restrictions.

Two important issues are raised:
A. Reallocating gifts donated for field purposes and using them to pay for headquarters construction appears to be a violation of ECFA’s Standards 7.2. GFA staff stated in a recorded GFA staff meeting that you approached the field partner and explained that GFA could borrow the funds in the U.S., at less than desirable terms, for the headquarters construction. However, a gift from the field partner, in lieu of GFA borrowing the funds, would allow GFA to complete the new headquarters and thereby save interest. Therefore, GFA would be able to send more money to the field in future years.

ECFA believes that the potential savings resulting from the GFA India gift is an inadequate basis to reallocate gifts donated for field purposes.

B. Reallocating gifts donated for field purposes contradicts GFA’s claim that 100 percent of funds are sent to the field. In fact, a significant amount of donations restricted for the field made a circuitous trip back to GFA and were used for the headquarters construction, as though they had never gone to the field. This appears to be a violation of Standard 7.1.

In a GFA staff meeting, GFA indicated the field partner took out a loan to cover the use of the $19,778,613 gift and GFA staff confirmed on August 27 that India-generated income was used to repay the loan. Our review of the board minutes did not indicate the GFA board had approved, or even been notified, of the $19,778,613 reallocation of donor-restricted gifts.

The lawsuit settlement between Garland and Phyliss Murphy and GFA included this agreement:

The Parties also mutually stipulate that all donations designated for use in the field were ultimately sent to the field.

Some, including GFA in their promotional material, have portrayed this as an admission that they did no wrong with donated funds. However, this is not the case. GFA did use donor funds in an elaborate scheme to help fund their corporate headquarters in Wills Point, TX. The donations were solicited to help needy people in India and were originally sent to “the field” but then sent back from “the field” to GFA in Texas. The ECFA letter outlines the circuitous route of those funds.

Originally, GFA leaders told staff that an anonymous donors gave the $20-million to complete the construction of the Wills Point headquarters. Then, in a staff meeting (that I first revealed on this blog), Yohannan and David Carroll disclosed to the staff that a field partner under the authority of Believers’ Church gave the money to GFA in the U.S. In that staff meeting, the staff were not told that the funds were originally given by donors.

GFA was so worried about the truth coming out about this point in the ECFA letter that they threatened to sue my former blog host, Patheos, to remove the staff meeting audio.  GFA is a nonprofit organization which requires a certain transparency. They claim to maintain financial integrity but threatened to sue to attempt to cover up aspects of their financing concerning their headquarters.

Thus, one of the key reasons GFA lost their membership in ECFA was reallocating field funds back to headquarters. So the funds were sent to the fields, but they didn’t stay there. If the Murphy suit had gone to trial, there is no doubt in my mind that the Wills Point headquarters transaction would have been a central component of the plaintiffs case.

Next: GFA’s financial statements presentation of restricted funds.