Ex-Aide To Yogi Had Expensive Tastes, Court Filings Show

Willamette Week, Oregon/March 6, 2012

A Portland businessman who wrongly took control of a religious group's nearly $1 billion business and non-profit empire, according to a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge's ruling in a civil lawsuit last year, has filed for bankruptcy.

Kartar Singh Khalsa—chief executive of Eugene-based Golden Temple foods, which makes Yogi Tea and Peace Cereals, and has also filed for bankruptcy—was central to a scheme to take control of businesses owned by the Sikh Dharma sect founded by the late Yogi Bhajan (pictured in the illustration).

Bankruptcy filings made earlier this year show that Khalsa was, as the group's religious leaders claimed, living large.

Khalsa's assets, according to the bankruptcy petition, include $30,000 in clothes and shoes, $21,000 in furs and jewelry and a new $40,000 BMW. But by far the majority of his wealth is with other property—six Portland condo units valued at $5 million, and a $23 million stake in a holding company for Golden Temple.

The bankruptcy documents also show that in 2010 and 2011, Khalsa earned $99,000 as a board member of Akal Security, a New Mexico-based Homeland Security contractor that guards airports, courthouses and embassies in the U.S. and abroad, and claims some $500 million in annual revenue.

The Eugene Register-Guard and the Portland Business Journal recently reported on the bankruptcy filings and ongoing lawsuits surrounding the Sikh Dharma group.

Last summer, WW covered the complicated legal dispute in depth. At the heart of the story are the last wishes of the late Yogi Bhajan, a guru who converted thousands of white Americans to the Sikh religion. Kartar Singh Khalsa led a splinter group of Oregon Sikhs—aided by Bhajan's longtime attorney, Roy Lambert formerly of the Portland firm Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt—in wresting control of the group's businesses. Lambert subsequently became the subject of a Oregon State Bar complaint and a $230 million malpractice lawsuit.

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