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Priest: Refugee Money Meant for Catholic Iraqis Was Gambled Away

Image: Priest: Refugee Money Meant for Catholic Iraqis Was Gambled Away
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By    |   Wednesday, 30 Mar 2016 06:02 AM

A Canadian priest who said he lost a large sum of refugee sponsorship money to gambling is being investigated by law enforcement, but charges have yet to be filed.

The Toronto Star reported on Monday that Father Amer Saka allegedly lost more than $500,000 (U.S. $380,000) meant for refugee sponsorship. London, Ontario, police told the Star that it received a complaint of alleged financial misappropriation at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church on Feb. 24.

"He called me on the phone and . . . said he lost all the money," Bishop Emanuel Shaleta, head of the Toronto-based Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of Canada, told the Toronto Star about a conversation he said he had with Saka on Feb. 23. "I said, 'How?' He said, 'Gambling.'"

"We believe that Father Saka has a serious gambling problem and that these funds may have been used for that purpose. Since there is an investigation going on, we cannot confirm what he's saying," Shaleta continued.

Shaleta told the London Free Press that the money came from the refugees' relatives and was held under a private sponsorship program. Saka was in charge of depositing the money into the trust fund to be used when those refugees reached Canadian soil, Shaleta told the publication.

"They deposited it for their loved ones," Shaleta said. "He was supposed to return it when their relative came. They did not give this money as a donation for their church. Those people are upset now that money is not there anymore.

"There are people affected, not only in London, but Toronto, Windsor and Kitchener. …They trusted him; this money was not for him. It was to be given back to the refugees," Shaleta added.

The Toronto Star reported that the Chaldean Catholic Church is based in Baghdad and represents Catholics from Iraq and surrounding countries, under the watch of the Vatican. Monsignor Murray Kroetsch, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton, told the Star that Saka was the leader of a constituent group raising funds to sponsor Iraqi refugees.

According to CTV News, the group was in charge of sponsoring 20 Iraqi refugees, but now the Hamilton diocese will take over that responsibility.

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A Canadian priest who said he lost a large sum of refugee sponsorship money to gambling is being investigated by law enforcement, but charges have yet to be filed.
priest, refugee, money
363
2016-02-30
Wednesday, 30 Mar 2016 06:02 AM
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