The governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson was recently scrutinized for flying around in a helicopter that costs the taxpayers of his state $495.00 per hour reports Albuquerque’s KRQE TV.
One of the governor’s stops was at an “International Peace Prayer Day” at the so-called “Sikh Dharma” (also known as 3HO) near Española on June 21. Richardson was the keynote speaker at this event.
However, the Española religious enclave has a troubled history and it has been called a “cult.”
Mainstream Indian Sikhs have often dismissed and disavowed both 3HO’s leader and his teachings.
Critics of Yogi Bhajan, founder of the group, say the authoritarian guru not only exerts dictatorial control over his followers, but also has a historical predilection for demanding sexual favors too.
Bhajan’s devotees are largely a collection of counter-culture “hippie” holdovers from the 1970s. Westerners who typically changed their Anglo surname to “Singh” and “Khalsa” and/or whatever else their guru wanted.
Bhajan and his associates have a history of scandals, ranging from financial fraud, to sex and illegal drug trafficking.
Guru Jot Singh (also known as Robert Alvin Taylor) a key leader within 3HO who now lives in the Española community, was indicted as an international drug smuggler. Taylor was caught and convicted for the illegal importation of marijuana and served a sentence in federal prison.
Why would Governor Bill Richardson, a former US congressman, past Secretary of Energy and United Nations Ambassador agree to be a “keynote speaker” for such a specious group?
This is an interesting story that began decades ago.
It seems that Bill, a dedicated fund-raiser, probably feels indebted to the guru for his generously arranged campaign contributions. And a cursory check over Richardson’s historic contributors list will reveal more than a few “Singhs” and “Khalsas” that helped to fill his campaign coffers.
Somewhat disturbing though is the length Bill Richardson was willing to go, in an effort to help out his friend the guru and the Española “cult compound.”
On October 25, 1985 Congressman Bill Richardson was “hand-delivered” a letter from the Chancellor of the “Sikh Dharma.”
The letter said in part; “We have been informed that the above [phone] numbers are and have been the subject of electronic surveillance by the United States government during the past several months…Would you please make an inquiry with the Justice Department, the CIA, the National Security Commission and any other government agency that may be involved in this surveillance and inform me of the results of your inquiry.”
Bill did exactly what was asked. He sent a letter days later to the FBI.
Richardson wrote, “I have received the attached letter from one of my constituents…Any information you can provide my office to help us respond…will be most helpful.”
The congressman also assigned one of his staff “to handle [the] matter.”
In December the FBI responded, “A check was made of our records here at FBI Headquarters and in our offices in Albuquerque and Los Angeles, and no information was located to indicate that the Sikh Dharma Brotherhood is now or has been the subject of electronic surveillance by the FBI.”
But what Bill didn’t know is that he had contacted the wrong federal law-enforcement agency.
Apparently it was the DEA that likely had the “cult” under surveillance, as the eventual arrest of Guru Jot Singh in 1987 for drug-trafficking would seem to indicate.
An interesting footnote is that another congressman also wrote the FBI about the New Mexico “cult” years earlier.
In 1979 then Congressman Jack Kemp wrote to the director of the FBI, “May I please have your assistance in addressing the concerns expressed to me in the enclosed letter from my constituent regarding the group her sister is a member of? As you will note, [she] is extremely concerned about the activities of the leader of this group and feels that her sister is a victim rather than a member…Has the FBI ever had occasion to investigate this group or the activities of its leader, Yogi Bhajan…if it is suspected that this man is in violation of a federal law…can some action be initiated.”
Kemp’s constituent wrote that her sister was “unable to reason” due to the influence of Bhajan and his “Western cult.”
She also said, “The only vacations [my sister] takes are for the purpose of taking more courses from Yogi Bhajan, for which she and her husband pay. Meanwhile Yogi Bhajan is well fed and maintained. He drives a late model Lincoln Continental and lives in a mansion in Los Angeles.”
In the years since, despite criminal convictions and lawsuits, Yogi Bhajan continued to prosper. At times his followers might be caught in various scandals, but their guru kept living the good life.
And at least one of his thriving businesses, Akal Security would benefit from government contracts.
After 9-11 the Albuquerque Tribune quoted an AKAL spokesperson describing the burst of activity after that tragedy.
“The largest portion of our work is federal government facilities – courthouses, offices, military, NASA…we’ve added several hundred people to those contracts…especially…in Manhattan, a few blocks from the World Trade Center…150 court security officers [are] at that courthouse,” the newspaper was told.
Akal, became the single largest court security contractor for the U.S. Marshals Service. The company received a five-year, $88.2 million contract to provide federal court security services within the Fifth Judicial Circuit, which includes Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
In New Mexico alone Akal reportedly provided services at the Santa Fe airport and to railroads and utilities.
Akal is directly controlled by Khalsa International Industries and Trades (KIIT), “A family of international businesses…In the vision and under the mentorship of Siri Singh Sahib [also known as Yogi Bhajan]” says a Sikh Dharma newsletter.
Akal states at its official website; “In 1987, Akal began providing contract security services to the U.S. Government…[and] received numerous contracts to protect critical national facilities, including White Sands Missile Range, U.S. Army Records Center, and DEA’s International Intelligence Center…many more officers serve on federal contracts protecting major government office buildings, federal detention facilities, and critical military installations.”
How did Akal do so well?
Were there special connections or considerations that helped Akal start and then sustain such stunning growth within the lucrative government end of its burgeoning business?
Maybe Governor Bill Richardson knows?
Did this “cult” of constituents benefit from its special relationship with the man who now hops by helicopter to keep his appointment as their “keynote speaker”?
And by the way, should Akal with its dubious “cult” background, be providing security at “critical national facilities…DEA’s International Intelligence Center… federal detention facilities, and…military installations”?
Maybe the department of Homeland Security should check all this out?
Note: All the letters cited were obtained from federal files under the Freedom of Information Act.