Priest Refugee Money Drama In Canada: Ontario Priest Gambles Donations Meant For Catholic Iraqis
A priest gambled refugee money intended to help Catholic Iraqis; the story makes headlines, and he is now under investigation. According to London, Ontario police, Father Amer Saka from a small church gambled away nearly $500,000 that was given to him to aid refugees, who recently arrived in Canada.
A priest carrying refugee money walks into a bar, well, make that a casino, and it ends very badly for the Iraqi nationals. On Monday, Canadian police confirmed that they have indeed opened an investigation into the illegal and sinful activities of Father Amer Saka.
Father Saka, who is part of St. Joseph’s Chaldean Catholic Church in London, Ontario collected over $500,000 from families, who thought he was holding it for Iraqi refugees who have recently moved to the city. Instead of helping those in need, the priest, who is also an administrator of the Mar Ouraha parish in Kitchener, gambled half of a million dollars away.
According to Bishop Emanuel Shelato, when they learned of Saka’s inappropriate actions he was suspended from his post. Shelato told British media:
“They deposited it for their loved ones (and) he was supposed to return it when their relative came.”
He went on to add:
“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.”
London police explained that they were contacted by church officials after they had noticed more than $500,000 went missing from church coffers. London police Const. Melissa Duncan said in statement:
“I can confirm that there is a fraud investigation after we received a complaint from the Catholic church. The investigation is ongoing. As with any fraud investigation it can take some time because there are various components to the investigation.”
Shelato, who is the head of Canada’s Mar Addai Chaldean Eparchy, which is an Eastern Rite church that represents Catholics from Iraq and surrounding countries and is overseen by the Vatican, said he discovered the theft in February.
According to Shelato, it was the first time Saka was participating in the government’s refugee sponsorship program through the Hamilton Roman Catholic Diocese. Under the government’s private sponsorship program, people, who want to sponsor refugees to Canada must raise money to support the newcomers upon arrival. About $12,000 must be raised to sponsor one refugee and $27,000 for a family. Shelato shared:
“I did not know that. I said to him, ‘I know this program deposits money (for refugees), where did you deposit it?’ I cornered him. I said ‘I need to know where is this.’He confessed. He said he had been gambling. Right away I removed him from the parish.”
Shelato said after he had contacted police, he took Saka to Southdown Institute in Holland Landing, Ontario, for priests suffering addiction and mental health issues. Saka, who is still getting help for his gambling problems, has refused to talk to the media.
Many of the church members, who donated, are disappointed in their priest, but they still pray he gets better and asks for forgiveness.