Litigation Continues in the First Yogi Bhajan Trial
The Fight For Yogi Bhajan’s Empire
By Kamalla Rose Kaur, Special to Sikh News Network
Posted: Saturday, September 03, 2011 | 12:11 am
John Kroger, Oregon's attorney general, is a plaintiff in the first lawsuit in which the late Yogi Bhajan's business and religious leaders are fighting each other to control his empire
Photo Source: Oregon Attorney General
The trial phase of the first major lawsuit, which will decide the future of Yogi Bhajan's Empire, has ended but the litigation process continues with the addition of a new defendant.
Judge Leslie Roberts issued an order on June 21, in the Multnomah County Circuit Court, directing the plaintiffs, Sikh Dharma International religious leaders and the Oregon state attorney general, to include Khalsa International Industries and Trade Inc., a California non-profit, as a defendant.
KIIT is a for-profit Nevada corporation owned by Unto Infinity, the top organization that controls all of the late Yogi Harbhajan Singh Khalsa’s business and religious empire. KIIT owns stock in Akal Security, a New Mexico for-profit, the most profitable of Yogi Bhajan’s businesses, and 10 percent of Golden Temple of Oregon food company.
KIIT used to own all of Golden Temple prior to the deputed 2007 corporate restructuring in which Unto Infinity board members took control of the yogi’s empire. Unto Infinity then created Golden Temple Management to govern the food company, and then sold a large portion of it to Hearthside Food Solutions for “multiples of $23 million,” according to court documents.
Unto Infinity board members also allegedly enriched themselves and cut funding to the non-profit religious sector, which led to the lawsuit filed in September 2009 by the ousted religious leaders of Yogi Bhajan’s dharma, a religion he create in the 1960s with many contradictions to Sikhism.
Golden Temple profits provided financial backing for the dharma until 2003. Expecting his own demise, Yogi Bhajan began to restructure his empire to transfer leadership from himself to some of his long-time followers and family. After his death in 2004, a power struggle ensued, culminating in a complicated restructuring that resulted in several lawsuits from the religious leaders and his family.
After the first trial ended in early June 2011, the Unto Infinity defendants requested the court that its wholly owned corporate subsidiary, KIIT, with identical board members, be added to the list of defendants. It argued that any decision would also affect KIIT, and would not be complete without it, according to court documents. The judge agreed.
On July 6, Golden Temple Management, another defendant, asked the court to reject the idea of adding KIIT as a defendant. Golden Temple Management said its defense would have been handled differently had KIIT been included from the start. But the judge dismissed that request, on August 5, according to the dharma’s Facebook post.
KIIT now has its own legal counsel, for a grand total of five defense lawyers billing hours on this first lawsuit.
Attorney General John Kroger, also a plaintiff, requested the court appoint a receiver to take custody of, manage and preserve all the assets of Yogi Bhajan’s empire until a final judgment is rendered.