Temple members want a full accounting from sect leader

The Province (Canada), Dec. 19, 2002
Stuart Hunter

The leader of a Sikh sect who allegedly controls a $20-million global financial empire is being accused of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of the temple’s money on gambling and real estate.

Dissident members of the Nanaksar Gurdwara-Gursikh Temple Society in Richmond have petitioned the B.C. Supreme Court to remove the temple’s spiritual leader, Harnek Singh Grewal, and the society’s directors.

They also want an independent auditor to scrutinize the society’s financial affairs from 1994 to 2002.

Grewal, 65, who goes by the title “Maharj Ji” which roughly translates into “The Prince,” is at the centre of the controversy.

He has been accused of drinking in the temple — the Nanaksar faith is known for its strict tenets, including celibacy for its holy men and no alcohol — and was once convicted of impaired driving.

“We want answers and we want it all sorted out,” Surrey contractor and complainant Madho Singh Pandher,46, told The Province yesterday. “Now we are saying: ‘Hey, this has got to stop.'”

The allegations against the temple directors, who also control temples in Edmonton, Toronto, Coventry in England, and in India, have stunned the Sikh community.

The Vancouver-based Asian Pacific Post newspaper, quoting from the society’s financial records, said the Edmonton branch of the society alone has in excess of $5 million in assets.

The main allegations are:

– “The directors of the society have wrongfully conferred much or all of the authority for the running of the society upon Mr. Grewal.”

– “Mr. Grewal has told the petitioner Madho Singh Pandher that he [Mr. Grewal] lost $45,000 of the society’s money gambling in Las Vegas.”

– “Mr. Grewal was convicted in Alberta in May 2000 of impaired driving. Mr. Grewal has also consumed alcohol while at the temple.”

– That the congregation makes donations exceeding $1.2 million annually, but the directors have failed to make financial statements available to the membership.

– That the society has bought a property in Richmond for $525,000 in order to build a house for Grewal. The value of the house and land exceed $1 million and the property is allegedly for Grewal’s 25-year-old bride in India.

The complainants, along with Pandher, are Tehal Singh Kaila and Dharam Singh Manhas.

The respondents are Grewal and society directors Surjit Singh Badesha, Jarnail Singh Heir, Rajinder Singh Pandher, Tarlochan Singh Ranu and Gurdeep Singh Wahid.

One of the founders of the Richmond temple on Westminster Highway, was Maple Ridge blueberry farmer Surjit Singh Badesha.

He has been accused by Indian police of hiring a gang to kidnap his niece Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu and kill the rickshaw driver she secretly married against her family’s wishes in 1999.

Sidhu, a Maple Ridge beautician, was beaten and had her throat slit in a June 2000 attack which her husband survived.

Police in Punjab want to extradite Badesha and his sister Malkiat Kaur, who is Jaswinder’s mother, to face charges.

Badesha and Kaur deny any connection to the killing.

The Nanaksar movement was founded by Nand Singh and blossomed following his death in 1943.

Temple directors didn’t return calls.

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