Indian American missionary K.P. Yohannan accused of funneling hundreds of millions of dollars for personal use

Kerala-born missionary founded Gospel for Asia, based in Texas.

AB Wire

K P Yohannan (Courtesy of his official website)
K P Yohannan (Courtesy of his official website)

A Kerala-born Indian American missionary who is now settled in Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Carrollton, Texas, Yohannan Kadappiliaril Punnose or K.P. Yohannan, who founded and runs Gospel for Asia – the second largest Christian mission agencies in the U.S. – has been named along with several family members in a class action lawsuit alleging that the organization and several affiliates fraudulently solicited hundreds of millions of dollars in charitable donations, and misdirected the money into the founder’s kitty.

The lawsuit initiated in the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas by the Dallas-based Stanley Law Group, comes just four months after the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) cut ties with the organization last October for violating five of the ECFA’s seven core standards.

In the 108-page document acquired by The Christian Post, last Tuesday, plaintiffs allege that Gospel for Asia (GFA), Yohannan, and other GFA officials misrepresented to donors how, when, and where charitable donations would be spent, and funneled vast amounts of the hundreds of millions of dollars the organization has collected into for-profit businesses and an expensive headquarters.

Matthew and Jennifer Dickson, who are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, charge defendants with violations of RICO and the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, as well as fraud and unjust enrichment.

Listed as defendants along with Yohannan are: his wife, Gisela, a member of the Board of Directors of GFA; his son Daniel Punnose, also a member of the Board of Directors of GFA and a vice president; David Carroll, who serves GFA in multiple capacities, including Chief Financial Officer; and Pat Emerick. Emerick, according to the suit, is a United States citizen who resides in Ontario, Canada. He serves as the director of the Canadian affiliate of GFA.

Gospel for Asia according to the lawsuit is a global missionary organization, founded in 1978, that operates in South Asia, primarily within India. The organization tells potential donors that it supplies the “poorest of the poor” with food, provisions, and a Christian message, but lead attorney Marc R. Stanley said in a statement that GFA has been exploiting the goodwill of Christians.

GFA is present in numerous countries, including Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Laos and Thailand.

“K.P. Yohannan and his Gospel for Asia inner circle have been exploiting the goodwill and generosity of devout Christians around the country for years. Gospel for Asia should return all the money it’s taken from donors who thought they were contributing to charity,” said Stanley.

According to the lawsuit: “Between 2007 and 2013, GFA solicited over $450,000,000 in donations from the United States alone, where the majority of GFA’s donors reside. Well over one million unique donations are made to GFA each year from tens of thousands of donors who give one time or on a recurring, sponsorship basis. However, despite repeated, explicit guarantees from GFA to donors, only a fraction of the donated money supports the people and causes for which it was donated, as Defendants redirect it for their own purposes.”

While the organization is recognized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity and a “religious order” in the U.S. by the Internal Revenue Service and is therefore not required to publish its financial statements, it enjoys no such exemption in India.

As a foreign charity in India, GFA is required to publicly account for all funds it spends in the country, pursuant to the Indian Foreign Contribution Regulation Act of 2010.

A financial analysis of the reports submitted to the Indian Government (“FC-6 forms”) for Believers Church, Gospel for Asia-India, and the related limited liability companies Last Hour Ministries and Love India Ministries, shows, according to the lawsuit, just how little of the money GFA sends to India is actually spent on the projects and items U.S. donors designated.

Concern was also raised about the use of nearly $20 million in donations earmarked for foreign missions for the construction of GFA’s new multimillion dollar headquarters in Texas.

“Allegations were made that GFA had upwards of $150 million in partner field accounts, far more than necessary to provide appropriate operating reserves. During our visit on June 3, ECFA was informed that GFA field partner cash reserves were approximately $7 million,” said a letter signed by John C. Van Drunen, executive vice president of the ECFA.

“After ECFA requested detailed documentation of cash balances held by foreign field offices, on June 29, we discovered that GFA’s field partners had $259,437,098 on hand at March 31, 2014 and approximately $186 million in June 2015,” the letter noted.

When ECFA officials asked about the high cash balance in partner field accounts held in India, they were told “it was important to maintain the high balances in case the Indian government decided to block funds being transferred into the country.

“The source of the balances was primarily from donor-restricted gifts to GFA, often raised in response to gift solicitations that communicated urgent field needs. ECFA staff expressed concern that the high reserves may not comply with ECFA Standards 4 and 7.1,” the letter continued.

It was only after the ECFA raised this concern that the organization put forward a plan to reduce the reserve cash balances to $72 million in late July and then to $11 million in late August. GFA staff told the ECFA that they had no control over field partners.

In a meeting with Yohannan in July as well, the ECFA said he told them he had no idea the field offices held such high cash balances.

“In our meeting on July 1, ECFA staff asked you what the GFA board would think if they knew of the high balances in partner field accounts. You indicated that neither the board nor you were aware of the magnitude of the balances. You responded, ‘They would be as surprised as I am,'” the letter noted.

Charisma News, a spiritual news outlet, reported that the GFA board of directors says the lawsuit stems from a misunderstanding.

“We learned of the lawsuit when reporters began to call us. It’s worth noting, the first to post anything related to the lawsuit was a blogger who has leveled a relentless attack on Gospel for Asia for months,” the board said in a statement to Charisma News.

“We appreciate the role and responsibility—and often good intentions—of journalists in the ‘new media’ and in traditional media, but we have been grieved to discover that too many of them have chosen to consider us ‘guilty until proven innocent’ as opposed to innocent until proven guilty.'”

According to Wikipedia, Yohannan formed a branch of GFA in Kerala, in 1981, with an Indian headquarters being set up in Tiruvalla in 1983. In 1993, GFA began founding its own network of churches in Asia, including the Believers Church which is Episcopal in governance.

The operations of Gospel for Asia and Believers Church were scrutinized after Believers Church, under the guidance of Yohannan, has also purchased a controversial 2,000-acre rubber estate in Kerala.

The Daily Beast reported that in videos of sermons before American audiences—which often address the topic of selflessness—Yohannan appears in a button-down shirt and sport coat, joking about his emigration from India and his thick accent before a crowd of evangelical southerners. When presiding over Believers’ Church, Yohannan more closely resembles the leader of an episcopal church, wears flowing robes, and—as documented by the indefatigable religion blogger, Warren Throckmorton—at times having junior pastors kiss his ring.

8 Comments

  1. Dear Sir

    Hope Global would like share need of our organization, we have when your website the we are so in lighted to know about your vision, therefore Sir we would like request go throw the our organization strategies and aim and objective, as initials we are having lot of difficult establish our organization if you can help us to uplift our organization we shall be ever grateful to you.

    The Hope Global Ministry is a non-profitable organization with an aim to identify and work with the impoverished, weaker and vulnerable sections of the society to initiate a culture of social service through creating synergy and building strategic partnership with the Governments, Non-Government Organizations, Self Help Groups, Community Based Organizations and various National and International Organizations by planning appropriate downstream and upstream interventions.

    The strategies of our mission movement which begin with the vision or motto “Strive by faith.’’We are striving hard purposely to bring changes in the field of education,different areas of downtrodden people,protecting the younger generation from exploiting social and moral injustices by engaging with the work provision.
    To find solutions to the challenges threatening the lives of the underprivileged communities with the ultimate aim of establishing an aware, responsible and developed society based upon equality, fraternity and social justice, ensuring sustainable and holistic development with emphasis on human rights so as to build and sustain healthy communities
    The Hope Global Ministry is committed to strengthening global communities in partnership with people of faith and conscience to encourage the hopeless escape the bonds of poverty and injustice that affect rural communities and empower them to be self-reliance and successfully move into the mainstream of ministry.

    Hope Global Ministries organization was formed in the year of 2011 under the registration of Home department Nagaland India Acts of 1960 and it is Non-profitable organization,SHAPA KONYAK the president of organization and his Lady’s wife TANYA KONYAK were the founder of the organization and both has facilitated with the aims and objectives and it is to promote the global younger generation in various way and for the better development of rural welfare global community. And to promote the educational and economic interest of the downtrodden people and that is by protecting the younger generation from exploitation and immorality.It will be a platform for younger generation by setting up the seminary centers and to assist and guide to the poorer and needy people by establising professional, vocational and institutions for younger generation.And to provide shelter to the homeless (Orphans) and to eradicate thirst, hunger, illiteracy and poverty by minimizing the inequality in the society and bring oneness.North East Asia India and the Headquartered of the organization will in Nagaland India.

  2. i am family member of kp yohannan,the begining of the organization and the ministry everthing was clear and now he is totally changed and he made a church.most of the church is leading low class people like no knowledge about the bible.one of the most thing is his family members also against him,now he is doing a big business,he is giving millions of dollars giving to the political leaders in kerala and india.if someone come and arrange meeting or ask we will (family) tell everything,we want to say many things about kp yohannan.

  3. Totally this is not good. His politeness and work for the Gospel
    turn in vain. The lust of the money is the main reason for all
    illegal things of everybody. If you are a faithful servant of God
    be a model to everybody in this world. God loves such persons.

  4. I suport him he is doing great work for the lord.but it is not good to collect money for himself.he has bought land in nepal but registered in his organation.what I want to say that those are doing God’s ministry since may years they don’t have personal home and land it is good to give the land for the local pastor

  5. looking4truth

    Please read the following to get the full story on Gospel for Asia.

    GFA Diaspora
    http://www.gfadiaspora.com/

    Report Details Why Gospel for Asia Lost ECFA Membership
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/december-web-only/report-details-why-gospel-for-asia-lost-ecfa-membership.html

    In GFA’s situation, some groups carried over $100k in cash without reporting the cash to U.S. Customs or Indian Customs.
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2015/09/15/u-s-customs-and-border-protection-reports-aggressive-enforcement-of-cash-smuggling-and-smurfing-laws/

    On Wednesday, December 16, Pastor Bill made an announcement regarding Gospel for Asia. Below is the video of this announcement. If you were unable to hear this message, or you want to hear it again, please take the time to watch this important message.
    http://www.calvaryamarillo.org/gospel-for-asia.html

    Charity Commission assessing new claims that £8.2m is missing from Gospel for Asia UK accounts
    http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/governance/news/content/21125/charity_commission_assessing_new_claims_that_82m_is_missing_from_gospel_for_asia_uk_accounts#.VqFDrLe4KTo.twitter

    Lawsuit Alleges Gospel for Asia Fraudulently Solicited Hundreds of Millions in Donations, Enriched Leader
    http://www.christianpost.com/news/gospel-for-asia-lawsuit-fraudulently-solicited-donations-k-p-yohannan-157200/#3WDIZ7YYi7K1Dvmj.99

    Actual lawsuit
    http://wp.production.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/files/2016/02/Dickson-v.-GFA-Complaint-as-Filed.pdf

  6. GFA’s “field partners” are KP Yohannan controlled Believers Church organizations. It seems irresponsible for ECFA to merely ask GFA to reduce $175M in funds in 2 months when they knew that money could not be dispensed in that short of time in accordance with donor intent. They had to know this action would likely result in the transfer $175M from the KPY controlled GFA Int’l (India) accounts to the KPY controlled Believers Church accounts. This in no way addresses the real issue of GFA raising funds based on urgent appeals with no intention of using those monies to provide “urgent relief”.

    ECFA is the voluntary membership American “watchdog” agency for unregulated religious organizations. They were the U.S. Congressional “compromise” for exempting abusive religious non-profits from government oversight.

    ECFA had to have known that this massive transfer occurring in two short months would in no way address the abuses and misappropriation of donor-restricted gifts. I sincerely hope that the Indian government is going to investigate. I also hope that Sen Grassley will consider this “experiment” in self-regulation a complete failure and institute governmental oversight to this $358 billion industry like most other countries have.

  7. George Mathew

    Wow !!

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