Gospel for Asia fraud case: Plaintiffs fight back against dismissal motion

KP Yohannan, founder of Gospel for Asia, pictured in a February 2015 video from Kerala.YouTube

Former Gospel for Asia (GFA) workers Matthew and Jennifer Dickson have hit back against attempts by the mission organisation to have their case against it for racketeering dismissed.

The Dicksons sued GFA after revelations by blogger Warren Throckmorton that the charity, which appeals for funds for work in India and elsewhere claiming needs are desperate, had huge financial reserves and that it was difficult to show where some of the money had gone. They allege that founder KP Yohannan had used GFA to solicit money for the needy and diverted those funds to purchase for-profit businesses.

In their suit, the Dicksons say: "Soliciting charitable donations to benefit the poorest of the poor while covertly diverting the money to a multi-million dollar personal empire is reprehensible; using a Christian organization as a front to attract and exploit the goodwill and generosity of devout Christians is a particularly vile scheme."

GFA denied the allegations and filed a motion to dismiss the suit on various technical grounds, claiming the Dicksons had not provided enough detailed evidence for it to proceed. However, lawyers for the Dicksons accused GFA of "engaging in a tortuous exercise in hairsplitting" and said they had documented GFA's "solicitation and misdirection of money in exhaustive detail, offering example after example of GFA's explicit promises to apply 100 per cent of every donation to the field, and a breakdown of where the money ends up: in private enterprises like soccer teams and rubber plantations".

The statement says: "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."

GFA had its membership of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) revoked in October 2015 due to "failure to comply with multiple ECFA standards".

A leaked official ECFA document revealed the "excessive cash balances held in partner field accounts". Told during a site visit that the field partner reserves were approximately $7million, it was discovered that the figure was approximately $186 million and had been as high as $259 million.