Spiritual body faces inquiry

Bristol Evening News/June 17, 2003
By Charlie Morton

An inquiry has been launched into the organisation linked with controversial speaker Prem Rawat, who led The Charity Commission has confirmed that it is investigating Elan Vital, the UK-registered charity which was set up in 1997.

The Indian-born icon Mr Rawat was billed as a motivational speaker when he addressed two sell-out crowds at the Colston Hall on Saturday and Sunday.

But up until just a few years ago, Mr Rawat was known as the Guru Maharaj Ji, head of the Divine Light Mission and who was once called Lord of the Universe by followers who lined up to kiss his feet.

Andrew Carpenter, a former follower of Mr Rawat, spent three months investigating Elan Vital before making a submission to the Charity Commission this month.

Mr Carpenter claims that between 1996 and 2002, Elan Vital gifted more than #4.5 million in grant aid to organisations in Switzerland, America and Australia, all exempt from providing public statements on their activities and spending.

Mr Carpenter, whose name has been changed at his request, also claims that Elan Vital fails to meet its stated objectives as an educational charity.

The 48-year-old, from South Bristol, said: "I find it difficult to understand how initial registration was granted."

Yesterday the Evening Post revealed that Canon Peter Bailey, a close advisor to the Bishop of Bristol, had urged people to question the movement's promises.

He said people should make up their own minds about what the group claims.

A Charity Commission spokesman confirmed that an investigation was underway.

He said: "We have received a complaint about the administration and status of the charity which will be given our full consideration."

Elan Vital was unavailable for comment but, in an interview with Venue magazine earlier this month, a representative said: "We would like to counter the suggestion that this is a religious movement. Prem Rawat teaches no code, creed or dogma."

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