Gambling Priest Loses Refugee Money

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by Larry Fedoruk
It’s quite an incredible story out of London, Ontario: A Catholic priest allegedly admitting to gambling away $500,000 slated for refugee sponsorship. London police say they did receive a complaint near the end of February and an investigation is underway.

It’s unclear at this point how the priest gambled away the money, whether it was through Ontario casinos or underground.


It’s been reported that Father Amer Saka (pictured) a priest at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in London called his bishop, Emanuel Shaleta, to tell him that the funds had “vanished in vice”.

We’ve also heard that Bishop Shaleta drove Saka to Southdown Institute, a non-profit facility north of Toronto where priests are treated for problems like addiction, depression and sexually deviant behavior.


Ironically the Chaldeans trace their history to Iraq and even parts of northeast Syria. Sponsorship money was to be used for refugees from Iraq. Sponsorships can be about $6000/person and up to $25,000/family. A Roman Catholic diocese in Hamilton has assumed at least 20 of the sponsorships that were to be taken care of by St. Joseph’s.

Chaldeans were based in Baghdad and many left during the Saddam regime. The sect was sanctioned by Pope Benedict XVI only 5 years ago and comes under the jurisdiction of the Holy See in the Vatican.

This seems to be about a man with a gambling problem, and not necessarily a problem within the church. Although, one has to wonder how one man, at a parish priest level, could have access to half a million dollars without a better system of checks and balances. One would think that even after a few hundred went missing, red flags would have gone up.

Church can often be a “cash business” and cash is always harder to control. Though none of the allegations have been proven in court, maybe this will be a lesson learned and new systems will be put in place.


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