Catholic forum leader skips court appearance, family alleges foul play
Joseph Dias of the Catholic Secular Forum had sent emails asking 80,000 people to donate money that would feed 2,000 orphans; when donors asked for a list of beneficiaries, discrepancies cropped up
Cashing in on the generosity kindled by the Christmas spirit and collecting donations in the name of God on the pretext of feeding over 2,000 orphans seems to have landed Joseph Dias, general secretary of the Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) in trouble with law-enforcement agencies.
Dias is now being investigated by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) for having appealed for funds by quoting biblical scriptures, and not using the funds for the intended purpose. The messages were sent via emails to over 80,000 people through his daily email services. His family, however, claims that he is being targeted and defamed.
Following the FIR in Jalgaon and Vasai police stations, the case was scheduled for hearing in both the Sessions Courts on Tuesday, but Dias did not show up, following which his plea for anticipatory bail was rejected.
Deputy SP Prashant Deshpande (EOW), confirmed, “Dias applied for anticipatory bail, which was rejected,” he said. “We are proceeding with the inquiry, and have charged the accused under Section 420 of the IPC, which pertains to cheating and fraud. We shall be summoning him for further questioning and take appropriate action under provisions of the law,” said Investigating Officer Prabhakar Raithe of Jalgaon policestation.
An officer from Vasai, requesting anonymity, revealed that as per their records, the Charity Commissioner’s office has given to the police in writing that audited account statements have not been filed till date by the accused, which is a mandatory requirement.
During Christmas in 2012, Joseph Dias allegedly made a massive appeal for funds by quoting biblical scriptures via emails to 80,000 people through his daily email services. Dias cited the Christian scripture, advocating the payment of tithe — one-tenth of personal income that should be given voluntarily as a contribution to a religious organisation for charity.
He said that 2,000 orphans would be fed from the money. When two contributors — Malcolm D’souza from Vasai and Sanjay Telgote from Jalgaon — requested for a receipt and a list of the 2,000 orphans who were to be fed during the festive season, Joseph Dias initially denied having received their cheques.
He later uploaded a list of orphanages where he had provided the Christmas meals, but the list was a dubious one. Meanwhile, D’souza’s bank told him that the donation had been credited into Jacob’s account. Suspecting foul play, a police complaint was filed on February 29. The case was handed over to the EOW.
The Other Side
Joseph Dias said a certain fragment of the community was falsely implicating him. In his defence, Dias mailed a letter from Justice Michael F Saldanha (ret), which alleges that people with vested interest are putting political pressure on the police, who had no reason to file the FIR. Fatima Dias, speaking on her husband’s behalf expressed fear for her and family’s life. “We are in grave danger from our rivals, who have threatened us in the past, and now filed false complaints. This was the reason my husband John could not appear in court on Tuesday. We have already recorded our statement in front of the police and also appealed to the home department seeking justice,” she said. “We need an independent enquiry in this case, in which people work without succumbing to pressure,” she urged.