On 29 March, when Punjab Police claimed to have recovered Rs 9.66 Crore cash from six men including a priest, Father Anthony Madasserry, who heads the Franciscan Missionaries of Jesus (FMJ) founded by rape accused former Bishop Father Franco Mullakal as a new congregation under the Jalandhar diocese, it was said the cash was ‘unaccounted money’ and possibly linked to a hawala racket to turn black money to white.

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Khanna, Dhruv Dahiya said the “money was without documents and evidence”. The deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Khanna, Hans Raj, who supervised the whole operation, said the cash was seized during the checking of vehicles.

“We had received a tip-off about the unaccounted cash being transported in three vehicles. After recovering the cash, we detained all the six occupants of those vehicles and handed them over to the Income-Tax (I-) department and the Enforcement Directorate (ED),” he said.

But it didn’t take long for the story to take an interesting turn with vernacular media reports suggesting the cash was not recovered during checking of vehicles but from Father Madasserry’s two-storey bungalow located at FMJ headquarters which consists of a ten-acre farmhouse in Jalandhar’s Partappura village.

Addressing a Press conference the very next day, Father Madasserry claimed the money was collected from the raid which took place at his residence. The police took him and five others away at gunpoint along with the cash, he alleged.

He said the cash belonged to the business run by him under a partnership firm, Sahodhaya, which takes contracts for sales of books, stationery, construction work and security services for private schools.

In a Press release, Father Madasserry said the total collection from sale of books and other items was Rs 30.34 crore. “We had deposited Rs 14 crore in the bank and balance of Rs 16.65 crore was to be deposited on March 29. Around 40- 50 people took away Rs 16.65 crore from my residence. Khanna police presented a notice of Rs 9.66 crore to the I-T authorities. I realised that the police had not handed over Rs 6.65 crore (a calculation mistake in the complaint as the actual difference is Rs 6.99 crore) to the I-T authorities.

The same could have been misappropriated by the police and my firm has the proof and receipts of the total collected amount. Already complaints have been given for registration of FIR against SSP, Khanna”.As the controversy took a new turn following Father Madasserry’s allegations and even a state-run bank confirmed the cash was seized for the priest’s residence in the presence of its staff, the Punjab Police was forced to form a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the charges

The SIT investigation has confirmed Father Madasserry’s charges and two Assistant Sub-Inspectors (ASIs) are in the police net, after remaining fugitives for 33 days, over the missing cash.

The SIT investigation has, however, revealed that the missing cash figure was exaggerated and Rs 14.5 crore was recovered from Father Madasserry’s Jalandhar house but he claimed the police had recovered Rs 16.65 crore from his house. But the fact remains the police showed it to be Rs 9.66 crore while appropriating the remaining account.

According to the SIT, the two ASIs have admitted to having pilfered Rs 4.5 crore and that money has been recovered.

The ASIs Joginder Singh and Rajpreet Singh hid in many states and were eventually arrested from Kochi where they were planning to strike a deal with the priests who belonged to Kerala and allegedly owned the cash, to return the money and get the complaint withdrawn.

Inspector General of Police (IGP) PK Sinha said the duo took away the money thinking it was part of a larger illegal amount and if they siphoned off some, there would not be any complaint. “When the money was recovered during a raid, senior officers told the two to deposit it at the Khanna police headquarters, but the duo hatched a plan midway. They initially thought of taking a few lakhs from the Rs 6.65 crore, but later thought of pocketing the whole amount,” the IG said.

He said the duo thought it was ill-gotten money. But the priests complained the next day, forcing the ASIs to flee. They later thought of leaving the country and tried to get their passports picked up from their houses but were caught.

With the whole episode turned out to be an embarrassment for the Punjab Police and raised serious doubts over its conduct, especially when the poll code is in force in the wake of the Lok Sabha polls, the Khanna SSP Dahiya has been shunted out on the orders of the chief electoral officer Punjab, S Karuna Raju, who had sought a detailed report from state police chief Dinkar Gupta in the case.