Judge dismisses $170 million class action lawsuit against Gospel for Asia

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KP Yohannan
Gospel for Asia founder KP Yohannan greets people in Mumbai, India in February 2018. |

A judge has dismissed a proposed $170million class action lawsuit against one of the world’s largest Christian ministries over alleged embezzlement more than three years after the charity paid $37million to settle a similar class action lawsuit in the United States.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has dismissed a motion to certify a lawsuit against Gospel for Asia (GFA World) Canada and a number of its current and former officers and directors.

Claimant Greg Zentner of Nova Scotia deposit the motion in June 2021, alleging that GFA defrauded thousands of Canadians and churches “who collectively donated millions to GFA Canada by diverting those funds for improper purposes.”

The motion to authorize a class action was dismissed on March 17 by Judge Peter J. Cavenaugh. GFA announced the dismissal in a press release earlier this month.

The judge found that the plaintiff “has failed to demonstrate a factual basis for his allegation that the defendants intentionally misappropriated donor funds in a manner unrelated to an alleged charitable purpose.”

The judge also found that Zentner had not demonstrated in fact that he or other members of the class suffered a “compensable loss.”

“I consider the evidence to support Zentner’s suspicions, based on speculative evidence, that GFA Canada misappropriated donor money,” the judge wrote in his 29-page decision obtained by The Christian Post.

“But suspicion, based on speculation, is not enough. Zentner’s approach
on this motion … is to make serious allegations of fraud and then to assert that the evidence presented by the defendants is not sufficient to prove that the donors’ money was spent in India as they named it, and discovery is required to uncover evidence of fraud. This approach reverses the burden. The onus is on Zentner to present admissible evidence showing a factual basis that the donated funds were misappropriated.”

“The only expert who has undertaken an analysis of how donor funds have been used is [GFA Canada’s forensic accounting expert Andy] Harrington, and his opinion is that GFA Canada used donor funds in the field as directed, an opinion that is not disputed by other expert evidence,” the decision states.

The decision comes as GFA maintained that “all funds for the land were sent to their intended destination and used for departmental purposes”, he added.

Founded by KP Yohannan over 40 years ago, Gospel for Asia was founded to serve “the least of them” in Asia and Africa, often in places where no one else serves, so that they can experience God’s love for the first time. ”

GFA reached a $37 million settlement in 2019 in another class action lawsuit that accused the nonprofit of mishandling hundreds of millions of donations intended for use in global missions entire. There was no admission of liability by GFA under the settlement.

In the 2015 lawsuit, Yohannan and his associates were charged with racketeering, fraud and financial mismanagement for using charitable donations from his mission fields to build personal residences and corporate headquarters in Texas.

GFA denied the allegation, but the organization was later kicked out of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and National Religious Broadcasters after financial accountability concerns were raised.

The offices of the Yohannan Eastern Believers Church in India were raided by authorities in November 2020 following allegations that the network had received foreign donations through associated non-governmental organizations.

GFA – which is a separate legal entity – later described the actions against Believers Eastern Church as a type of “Christian persecution” and part of an “ongoing smear campaign targeting the ministry”.

An affidavit in support of Zentner’s lawsuit cites a press release from the Indian Ministry of Finance announcing search and seizure operations that were allegedly carried out “as credible information has been received that the group has received donations from foreign countries ostensibly to help the poor and destitute and for evangelistic purposes, but was actually siphoning off these tax-exempt cash funds to engage in unrecorded cash transactions or illegal personal and other expenses in real estate transactions.

However, the court ruled that the press release “does not disclose the source of the information” and is “not admissible evidence showing a factual basis for Zentner’s allegation that GFA Canada fraudulently misappropriated the donor’s money”.

Preacher and author Francis Chan, who has been a GFA board member since 2015, has remained a strong public advocate for the organization and Yohannan.

After allegations emerged against GFA in 2015, Chan said he traveled to its Texas headquarters and India mission field with a trusted financial expert who is a partner in a major firm. accounting. Chan also reviewed the tax returns of Yohannan and his son.

“After extensive research, our conclusion was that there was no money misappropriated and that all funds were being directed to the intended areas,” Chan assured in a 2019 statement.

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