Late Sikh leader's trustees, widow at odds over estate

by Gursant Singh ⌂ @, Yuba City California USA, Thursday, April 29, 2010, 07:27 (2883 days ago) @ Gursant Singh

Late Sikh leader's trustees, widow at odds over estate
Division of the late Sikh leader Yogi Bhajan's estate has become the subject of a lawsuit that seeks details regarding multimillion dollar claims.

The New Mexican/October 9, 2007
By Tom Sharpe
Yogi Bhajan's widow is making unsubstantiated claims for millions of dollars against a trust set up to benefit the late Sikh leader's assistants, says a complaint filed this month in state District Court.

The complaint says Inderjit Kaur Puri has received what she is due from her husband's estate — "her interest in community property, IRAs and life insurance proceeds, and certain real estate located in New Delhi, India."

Yet Puri claims she knew nothing about charitable contributions that Yogi Bhajan made during the last eight years of his life and wants half of that community property returned to her, says the complaint.

In addition, the lawsuit says, Puri's lawyers say at least $3,784,863 is missing from her share of the Yogi Bhajan Administrative Trust for "persons who were the Assistants of Yogi Bhajan during his lifetime."

As a result, the trustees "are suffering ongoing, irreparable harm by the failure and refusal of (Puri) to present the details of her claims," says the complaint filed Oct. 1 by Norman Thayer of the Albuquerque law firm of Sutin, Thayer & Brown on behalf of trustees. Sopurkh Kaur Khalsa, Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa and Ek Ong Kar Kaur Khalsa.

Yogi Bhajan, the ebullient, turbaned, 6-foot-3 master of White Tantric Kundalini yoga, was the chief authority for the Sikh religion in the Western Hemisphere [sic] until his death three years ago. The founder of a religious community near Española, he was a confidant of and contributor to many New Mexican politicians, including Gov. Bill Richardson and U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M.

Thayer said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he has met Ek Ong Kar Kaur Khalsa, who acted as a spokeswoman for the Sikh community after Yogi Bhajan's death three years ago. But Thayer said he had not met the other two trustees and did not know if they were assistants to Yogi Bhajan.

"The problem is they don't have sufficient information supporting the claims to be able to judge their accuracy," he said of the trustees. "In order to move the matter to a conclusion, (they will) ask the court to hear the evidence and make a decision. ... We just need to get the details on the table."

Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji, known as Yogi Bhajan, was born in 1929 in the part of India that became Pakistan in 1947. He became a yoga master at 16, studied economics, worked as an Indian customs officer and came to the United States in 1968.

In Los Angeles, Yogi Bhajan assembled a loyal contingency of American followers hungry for his regime of yoga, vegetarianism and capitalism as well as abstinence from smoking, alcohol and drugs. In 1972, he moved to Sombrillo, near Española, to open an ashram with a congregation of some 300 Sikh-convert families.

In 1997 and 1998, Yogi Bhajan had several heart attacks and underwent angioplasty and open-heart surgery. By his 71st birthday party in 2000, he moved slowly, often gripping the arms of followers, and was unable to practice yoga. He died in early October 2004.

According to the complaint for declaratory judgment and ancillary relief, Puri's claims about missing money and charitable contributions were first made in May 2005 in a letter from the Santa Fe law firm of Worcester and McKay. Robert Worcester, who has represented Puri, did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

The case has been assigned to state District Judge Jim Hall, who has yet to set any hearings.

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