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Legal Brouhaha Erupts for Control of Yogi Teas

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by spnadmin, Dec 9, 2010.

  1. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Karina Brown

    PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - The widow of the late Yogi Bhajan, former Sikh leader for the Western Hemisphere, claims that Bhajan's inner circle drew up false documents they claimed Bhajan signed that authorized that allowed them to wrest control of Golden Temple, the $150 million company that makes Yogi Teas.

    The backdated documents allowed the board members to drastically raise their own salaries and let non-Orthodox Sikhs run the company, according to the complaint in Multnomah County Court.

    Yogi Bhajan's widow and three children claim Bhajan's lawyer and the board of managers of Bhajan's companies used their newfound power to divert company profits from charities into their own pockets. They claim that one board member raised his own salary from $125,000 in 2002 to more than $850,000 in 2008.

    And in 2009, a Golden Temple Management board member bought the company's Peace Cereal division at a discount and sold it for a much higher price, according to the complaint.

    Bhajan's widow, Bibiji Puri and their three children sued Bhajan's former lawyer, who is also the trustee of his living trust, and board members of his companies, Unto Infinity and Siri Singh Sahib Corp.

    Unto Infinity controls Sikh Dharma International, which runs Golden Temple of Oregon through its subsidiary, KITT. Unto Infinity also controls the Sikh Dharma Educational Institute, 3HO (Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization, which runs 300 centers in 35 countries) and Kundalini Research Institute. KITT also runs Akal Security, a New Mexico corporation, according to the 59-page complaint.

    Before his death in 2004, Bhajan was sole director of Siri Singh Sahib Corp., which he formed to "control various entities" after his death.

    Upon his death, the company's management was supposed to fall to new directors designated in writing by Bhajan, according to the complaint. Bhajan's choice was to be held "in confidence" by the company's lawyer, defendant Roy Lambert.

    Bhajan's family claims Lambert has such a document, and that their names are on it. They say he has refused to produce it or to tell anyone who Bhajan designated as the company's new directors.

    In 2003, Bhajan formed Unto Infinity, a religious charity, and appointed several of the defendants - Sopurkh Khalsa, Peraim Khalsa, Ram Khalsa and Karm Khalsa - to the company's board of directors.
    In 2004, Bibiji says, doctors diagnosed Bhajan with late-stage congestive heart failure.

    She says his doctor prescribed heavy duty pain killers and sedatives, which caused Bhajan to suffer memory loss and lose coherence. She says her husband also had severe cataracts in both eyes, was unable to read, and needed others to explain documents before he could sign them.
    During his last year of life, if Bhajan needed to attend a meeting, the family says his colleagues would ask his doctor to stop his medication for 24 hours beforehand. In September 2004, Bhajan's condition deteriorated. He died on Oct. 6, 2004.

    Several months before his death, Bibiji says, Bhajan told Sopurkh, the trustee of the couple's living trust, as well as president of Unto Infinity and a member of the board of trustees for Siri Singh Sahib Corp., that he wanted his wife and children appointed to "the management boards of whatever business entities the family members wanted."

    Sopurkh allegedly told Bhajan's longtime lawyer, Roy Lambert, about Bhajan's wishes.

    In July 2004, the Unto Infinity board of managers added Bibiji as a fellow board manager "effectively immediately," the lawsuit states.

    But Bibiji claims no one told her about the appointment.

    Shortly after Bhajan died, Sopurkh allegedly sent a memo to a fellow board member communicating Bhajan's wish that his family be added to "the management boards of various related corporations and entities." But the family claims the board kept this a secret as well.

    After that, board members asked Lambert to help them exclude Bhajan's family from the companies, according to the complaint.

    In November 2004, Bibiji says, Lambert sent her an email claiming unanswered security questions were holding up her appointment to the board. She claims he did not mention that she already had been appointed, nor that her children should also be appointed.

    One year later, the board allegedly claimed that Sopurkh's earlier memo reflected only the family's desire to work with the companies, not their actual or planned appointments to the various boards.

    And in January of this year, an Unto Infinity board member tried to nullify Bibiji's 2004 appointment to the board, though it was never put into effect and the member in question was not on the board in 2004, according to the complaint.

    The family claims that Soupurkh also did away with longstanding requirements that allow only active observers of the Sikh faith act as managers of Unto Infinity.

    He also changed the articles of incorporation to limit the power of Bhajan's family, should they ever become active members of the board, Bibiji claims.
    Lambert filed these changes in 2008, but included a statement that the board had adopted the changes several weeks after Bhajan's 2004 death, the widow says.

    The plaintiffs are Bibiji and her children, Ranbir Singh Bhai, Kamaljit Kaur Kohli and Kulbir Singh Puri. They sued Sopurkh Kaur Khalsa, Peraim Kaur Khalsa, Siri Ram Kaur Khalasa, Kartar Singh Khalsa, Karam Singh Khalsa, Roy Lambert, Unto Infinity and Siri Singh Sahib Corporation.

    They demand $150 million in damages, alleging fraud, conversion, unjust enrichment, RICO fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and other charges. They are represented by R. Scott Palmer with Watkinson, Laird, Rubinstein, Baldwin & Burgess.

    http://www.courthousenews.com/2010/12/08/32410.htm
     

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  3. Siri Kamala

    Siri Kamala United States
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    Y'know I would just like to know who appointed Yogi Bhajan "Sikh leader for the Western Hemisphere." I mean srsly -- who? He was leader of 3HO. Period. That's it. I doubt he was Sikh leader for all the Punjabi Sikhs in the Western Hemisphere -- so much of what he preached was in direct conflict with the teachings of the SGGS, he never would have been MY leader if I had been a Sikh when he was still alive. It sounds to me like YB just pulled that glorified title right out of his egomaniacal hindquarters.

    Apologies to anyone here who thinks YB was divine and wonderful. I've just read way too many reports from ex-3HO folks and way too many news stories about his questionable words and exploitative, corrupt actions to give him any respect or credibility as a Sikh spiritual leader at all. :disguestedkudi:
     
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  4. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    There are several observations in this article that are actually very significant if one wants to understand the context of Sikh Dharma in the Western Hemisphere.


    First of all is this paragraph. It represents one of the rare times where the interconnections and interdependence of organizations is clearly stated in print. The article describes approximately what I found to be the case after spending many hours one Saturday afternoon following a trail of Internet sites and web hosting notices. The thread starter pulls it together.

    Notice that KITT, which is 2 layers down from Unto Infinity, at the apex, runs/ran the two most lucrative operations: Golden Temple and Akaal Security. Both were put out for sale, however, both attempts to sell the companies were in litigation last I checked. Perhaps more has happened since then.

    It is next to impossible to find an authoritative source that will describe exactly what KITT does.

    This is also very interesting
    This next statement refers to events where people in leadership positions were keshdhari Sikhs during Yogi Bhajan's lifetime, but today do not keep hair.

    "Non-orthodox Sikhs" in this article refers to individuals in leadership positions who do not keep hair. During Yogi Bhajan's life time they did keep hair. A person with a sehajdhari orientation might react "so what?" Why make an issue of it? However, keeping hair was a constant theme of Yogi's spiritual guidance for reasons he continually promulgated. The timing of their shaving/cutting of hair opens a number of questions relevant to holding positions of trust.

    So life must be very tense in Espanola.
     
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  5. Siri Kamala

    Siri Kamala United States
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    (nodding) The whole 3HO thing is secretly made of "ick" IMO -- I get angry when I see people making excuses for Yogi Bhajan or dismissing the harm he did with sort of a "Well...nobody's perfect. He never claimed to be a saint."

    No, he wasn't, and maybe he never did -- I don't know for sure one way or the other.

    What I DO know is that he had enormous power that he used to exploit the very people who trusted him and relied on him for guidance.

    If I believed in a Hell, I'd believe there was a special corner in it for people who do that sort of thing.

    It is, no doubt, the Sikh in my (admittedly Sehjadhari) soul that, when I hear stories of how he sexually assaulted women, broke up marriages, sent children off to India against their own wishes and that of their parents, I get all Bibi Sundari and want to whip out my kirpan and defend people against him. swordfight

    He was a bully, a molester, a manipulator, a liar, and a charlatan -- a regular Elmer Gantry from India. There is no amount of good that he's done that makes up for the harm he's caused to so many people, IMO. I am really, really glad he's not around any more because I'd probably be ticking the 3HO's off on a regular basis...
     
  6. spnadmin

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    Update

    Yogi's widow sues Sikh business managers in Oregon

    EUGENE -- The widow of Yogi Bhajan has sued the managers overseeing the businesses of the Sikh community her husband founded, including Golden Temple, a longtime Eugene natural foods company.

    Golden Temple, which previously had annual revenue of $125 million, sold its cereal division in May. It still operates Yogi Tea, which has 50 employees in Springfield and 100 employees in Europe.

    The widow, Bibiji Inderjit Kaur Puri of Los Angeles, alleged that her husband's most trusted advisers drew up false documents and backdated them to make it appear as if he had approved what she described as their abandonment of orthodox Sikh practices, their takeover of the community's businesses and the exclusion of his family members from the management board.

    Bibiji alleged that once they secured their power, members of the management board Unto Infinity, which includes Golden Temple CEO Kartar Singh Khalsa enriched themselves and Golden Temple managers at the expense of the Sikh Dharma religious community. Gary Roberts, Unto Infinity's attorney, did not respond to a request for comment Monday, but he has denied similar allegations in other lawsuits.

    The widow's lawsuit, which was filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court in Portland, alleges that Unto Infinity authorized raises and perks for its members, including boosting Khalsa's salary from $125,000 in 2002 to $850,000 in 2008.

    It also alleges that Unto Infinity members conspired with Golden Temple managers to sell the company's cereal division at below-market value to a group of Golden Temple managers in 2007, who then two years later resold it at a much higher price. Bibiji is asking for damages of $150 million.

    She wants the current managers removed and for her to be installed as the sole manager. She also wants the managers to pay back any of what she terms their ill-gotten gains.

    Hers is the third lawsuit to accuse Unto Infinity members of breaking their fiduciary duty to safeguard the Sikh Dharma community's assets and of personally profiting instead.

    The other two lawsuits one filed by Sikh Dharma ministers and the other by Oregon Attorney General John Kroger were consolidated earlier this month.

    Bibiji soon will file a motion asking that this lawsuit be consolidated with the other two, her attorney, Surjit Soni, said Monday.

    In the lawsuit, Bibiji said that before his death in 2004, her husband directed Sopurkh Kaur Khalsa, Unto Infinity's president, to add the yogi's wife and three children "to the management boards of whatever business entities the family members wanted."

    Bibiji was added to the Unto Infinity board "by unanimous written consent" on July 26, 2004, according to the lawsuit.

    But Bibiji said she was not informed of this and didn't discover it until March 2010.

    Along with Bibiji, the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are her sons, Ranbir Singh Bhai and Kulbir Singh Puri, and her daughter, Kamaljit Kaur Kohli. They sued Unto Infinity members Sopurkh Kaur Khalsa; Peraim Kaur Khalsa; Siri Karm Kaur Khalsa and Kartar Singh Khalsa; former Unto Infinity member Siri Ram Kaur Khalsa; Golden Temple CFO Karam Singh Khalsa; Roy Lambert, Yogi Bhajan's business attorney for 25 years; and Siri Singh Sahib Corp., an Oregon nonprofit corporation.

    http://www.kgw.com/news/local/Yogis-widow-sues-Sikh-business-managers-in-Oregon-111963694.html
     

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