A Catholic priest has been charged with theft and gambling away more than 500,000 Canadian dollars in donations intended for the resettlement of Christian refugees arriving in Canada from Syria and Iraq.
According to local police, Amer Saka, a 51-year-old clergyman of the Iraq-based Chaldean Catholic church, had allegedly collected the funds from over 20 donors under the pretext of providing support for the refugees.
Press TV reports:
“This investigation spanned throughout the province of Ontario, the United States and other countries where refugees were attempting to come to Canada,” police in London, Ontario, said in a statement.
This is while the head of Canada’s Chaldean Catholic church Bishop Emanuel Shaleta told the local London Free Press that Saka had contacted him to confess he had indeed gambled and lost all of the collected funds.
According to the report, the Catholic priest had been involved in a sponsorship program for refugees for a number of years. He was reportedly sacked by the diocese of Hamilton, Ontario, after local police launched a probe into the case back in February.
Meanwhile, Saka was taken into custody on Wednesday and granted bail after being formally charged with fraud and a related possession charge. Additionally, the daily reported, a court ordered Saka not to enter any casino.
Church officials originally reported to police after Father Amer Saka told his bishop at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic church in February that the funds intended for Syrian refugees has disappeared.
“We believe that Father Saka has a serious gambling problem and that these funds may have been used for that purpose,” Shaleta said at the time as quoted by the UK-based Guardian daily.
However, no charges were brought against Saka until the alleged theft was investigated by police.
The Chaldean Catholic church represents Catholics from a number of Middle Eastern states and is overseen by the Vatican.