Kochi, Jun 28 (PTI) Income Tax sleuths carried out raids today at around 20 premises associated with middlemen and real estate dealers allegedly involved in the controversial land deal in Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church, official sources said. Also Read - Canada's Most Populous Province Ontario to Enter Lockdown Amid 2nd Wave of COVID Infections

Sources said the raids started at 6.45 AM. Also Read - Kerala Local Body Polls 2020: Robot Greets & Assists Voters, Gives Them Sanitisers at Polling Booth

Raids are being carried out at least 20 premises, mostly in Ernakulam district, they said. Also Read - Coronavirus: Canada Health Regulator Approves Pfizer's COVID-19 Vaccine

However, no raids were carried out in the church premises, they said without elaborating.

A church committee, which probed alleged irregularities in financial and land transactions of the archdiocese, had said it found numerous instances of violation of canon and civil laws and recommended necessary action against those responsible.

The six-member inquiry committee had also said that Cardinal Alencherry “seems to have fully known and involved” in the alienation and purchase of lands by the archdiocese between April 1, 2015 and November 30, 2017.

The panel, comprising priests, was appointed by Alencherry, who is also Major Archbishop of the archdiocese, after some priests and faithful accused him of selling prime land of the archdiocese for “a very low price”.

The Syro-Malabar Church has over 30 dioceses in the country and four outside — in the US, Canada, Australia and Britain — serving over five million faithful.

A division bench of the Kerala High Court had recently set aside a single bench order which had directed the police to book Syro-Malabar Catholic Church head Cardinal George Alencherry and three others over alleged irregularities in land deals in the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese.

The single bench had passed the order to register a case on the complaint lodged with the police by Shine Varghese.

The Cardinal had said the property transactions the archdiocese had were not in conflict with the applicable laws of the land or canon laws.

Under the canon law, the archbishop has the power and authority to administer properties of the archdiocese, he had said in the court.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.